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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 ?
Gestalts organize the content of doctrines, theories, and narratives--they frame our perceptions.
Constitutional gestalts (supported by doctrinal theories, normative constitutional theories, and narratives) organize multitudinous, complex constitutional particulars into relatively simple pictures composed of a manageable set of elements.
112) "At times of revolution, when the normal-scientific tradition changes, the scientist's perception of his environment must be re-educated--in some familiar situations he must learn to see a new gestalt.
Finally, firm A, left behind in the gestalt switch, may need help understanding the language of the new technological cycle.
Die skrywers is van mening dat Gestalt terapeutiese opleiding die Westerse en Eurosentriese tradisies, waarin dit histories gesitueerd is, behoort te transendeer, om sodoende toepaslik te kan wees in die multi-etniese en multi kulturele werklikheid van die "global village", soos wat dit deur diversiteit gekenmerk word.
It is the intention of the authors to focus specifically on their experiences of Gestalt therapy as trainee therapists, and to identify those elements of Gestalt therapy that have resonated most strongly with personal themes.
all three-dimensional figures of gestalts in the coauthorship networks of this study.
Structural gestalts comprise mutually supportive elements such that the gestalts both embody and are constitutive of their province of meaning (Ranson et al.
Given the natural integrations of frameworks and processes, the gestalt approach holds that two of the most common structural gestalts which develop over time would be the participative and restrictive gestalts, representing polar combinations of the structural elements.
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).