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(gəshtält`) [Ger.,=form], school of psychology that interprets phenomena as organized wholes rather than as aggregates of distinct parts, maintaining that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The term Gestalt was coined by the philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels in 1890, to denote experiences that require more than the basic sensory capacities to comprehend. In 1912, the movement was given impetus in psychology by German theorists Max WertheimerWertheimer, Max
, 1880–1943, German psychologist, b. Prague. He studied at the universities of Prague, Berlin, and Würzburg (Ph.D., 1904). His original researches, while he was a professor at Frankfurt and Berlin, placed him in the forefront of contemporary psychology.
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, Wolfgang KöhlerKöhler, Wolfgang
, 1887–1967, American psychologist, b. Estonia, Ph.D. Univ. of Berlin, 1909. From 1913 to 1920 he was director of a research station on Tenerife, Canary Islands.
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, and Kurt KoffkaKoffka, Kurt
, 1886–1941, American psychologist, b. Germany, Ph.D. Univ. of Berlin, 1908. Before settling permanently in the United States in 1928 as a professor at Smith, he taught at Cornell and at the Univ. of Wisconsin.
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 as a protest against the prevailing atomistic, analytical psychological thought. It was also a departure from the general intellectual climate, which emphasized a scientific approach characterized by a detachment from basic human concerns. According to the school, understanding of psychological phenomena such as perceptual illusions could not be derived by merely isolating the elementary parts for analysis, because human perception may organize sensory stimuli in any number of ways, making the whole different from the sum of the parts. Gestalt psychologists suggest that the events in the brain bear a structural correspondence to psychological events; indeed, it has been shown that steady electric currents in the brain correspond to structured perceptual events. The Gestalt school has made substantial contributions to the study of learning, recall, and the nature of associations, as well as important contributions to personality and social psychology. Gestalt therapy, developed after World War II by Frederick Perls, believes that a person's inability to successfully integrate the parts of his personality into a healthy whole may lie at the root of psychological disturbance. In therapy, the analyst encourages clients to release their emotions, and to recognize these emotions for what they are. Gestalt psychology has been thought of as analogous to field physics.


See W. Köhler, The Task of Gestalt Psychology (1969); Max W. Productive Thinking (rev. ed. 1959, repr. 1978); G. Higgins, Gestalt Psychology and the Theory of Emotional Growth (1987); D. Rosenblatt, Opening Doors: What Happens in Gestalt Therapy (1989).


A complex of weather elements occurring in a familiar form, and though not necessarily referring to basic hydrodynamical or thermodynamical quantities, may persist for an appreciable length of time and is often considered to be an entity in itself.
References in periodicals archive ?
We have defined aesthetic rhythm as a play between perceived direction and perceived balance within the gestalts of an art work.
435), a bundle of small gestalts moving inside a bigger one, creating a rhythm.
The radical changes in artistic comprehension of reality at the end of the 19th century had considerably loosened all generally recognized rules and paved way for the legitimization of flexible or wandering gestalts of personified objects and phenomena.
The flexibility of personification gestalts manifests itself in a most conspicuous way within the framework of an individual poetic mapping of the world offered by a certain author.
Constitutional gestalts operate at a level of abstraction that floats above doctrines, theories, and narratives.
In Amendt-Lyon's view, Gestalt therapy can facilitate the ability of human beings to engage playfully and creatively with one another.
If firm B's newly created cycle is incommensurable to the cycle in which Firm A was competing, firm A would need a gestalt change in order to survive.
Thus, we generally call such objects as gestalts which, as correctly noted by PIAGET, owe their gestalt to be balancing interactions of forces.
It was hypothesized that the nature of the gestalts in the designs would have an effect on the strategies used.
Hence, the development of structural gestalts would allow for exploration of the coherent themes which exist between the two perspectives of structure.
The target shown in Figure 5 displays too much detail and has an overwhelming gestalt (i.
Cognitive semantics proposes a paradigm that revives theories of descriptive psychology developed at the beginning of this century: Gestalt theory and experimentation (see Lakoft, 1977).