Gestalt theory emerged as a result of three German psychologists, who did not agree with the idea of introspection, and analysing perception to itemise it into individual sensations. They argued that, rather than separate sensations, we perceive objects as organised wholes. Gross (1987) attempted to explain this using the analogy of water; as a whole, it has different chemical properties to its components, hydrogen and oxygen. We organise and remember the arrangement of objects using a set of heuristics, and these help us to understand and survive in a constantly evolving world. Firstly, the key aspects of Gestalt theory will be outlined, and then the strengths and criticisms of the model will be discussed with regards to relevant studies.
One of the heuristics the Gestalt theory proposes is that we group elements together based on proximity, meaning that objects that are close together in space are often perceived together. This does not occur with just auditory sensations, for instance, a melody is just a series of notes played after each other, and we group them together due to their proximity. Another is the idea of closure. The brain tends to fill in parts of an object if they are missing, in order to complete its shape. This is because it is much easier to perceive a closed image, rather than an incomplete one. There are often cases where people see pictures of celebrities in unexpected places, such as on a piece of toast, and this can be due to their perception, ignoring gaps and perceiving a full or closed image.
The principle of similarity is another important concept within the Gestalt theory. Elements that are similar will be grouped together, and follow the same pattern. The similarity could be in how they are orientated, or the shape of the element. The theory also mentions common fate, which is when a set of elements all move in the same direction at the same speed, and so are perceived as to move as one. This is shown when flocks of birds...
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