Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Gestalt Theory

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2766-1



Gestalt is a German word that roughly translates to shape or form. Gestalt Theory attempts to define the fundamental rules of how individuals perceive stimuli in the environment as a complete form, rather than a group of smaller disconnected parts. A Gestalt is a complete percept that arises from the integration of small individual parts of a whole. This “whole” is not simply a sum of its parts, but becomes something more (Wagemans et al. 2012a). The whole becomes something else entirely; something that has a greater significance (Koffka 1935).


Gestalt theory is a theoretical standpoint in perceptual psychology that emerged from the work of Max Wertheimer’s 1912 paper on the phi phenomenon, or apparent motion (Wertheimer 2014). Apparent motion is the illusion that results when researchers present two stationary visual stimuli successively and create the percept that one object has moved...

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IdahoMoscowUSA