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Home » Blog » Gestalt Theory of Learning

Key Learnings:-

  1. Introduction to Gestalt Theory of Learning 
  2. What is Gestalt Therapy
  3. What is Gestalt Psychology
  4. Origin of Gestalt Theory 
  5. Characteristics of Gestalt Theory
  6. How is Gestalt Theory Used in Coaching?
  7. Applications of Gestalt Theory of Learning 
  8. Educational Applications OF GESTALT THEORY OF LEARNING
  9. Strengths and Limitations of Gestalt Approach

Introduction to Gestalt Theory of Learning 

Gestalt is an all-encompassing concept. A gestalt, in other words, is greater than the sum of its components. The total cannot be derived from the pieces.

Gestalt is a human perception philosophy. Gestalt theorists look into a variety of research concerns about the role of the human mind in perception and interpretation, including:

  • How does the human brain deal with the constant barrage of information?
  • What is the process by which the human mind recognises patterns?
  • How can the whole be larger than the sum of its parts?
  • Why is the total “more than the sum of its parts” in some cases?

Gestalt is defined as a physical, biological, or symbolic configuration or pattern of elements that is so unified as a whole that its attributes cannot be determined by adding up its pieces. Gestalt theory provides a new perspective on learning.

Gestalt as a concept and Gestalt Theory as a theory arose in opposition to Behaviorism’s emphasis on empiricism and positivistic knowledge.

German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka were all interested in the role of the human mind in perception. They were particularly interested in how the mind makes sense of the world—how we sift all of the information we receive from our senses on a moment-by-moment basis. They were particularly eager to show that the human mind has a significant impact on what it senses. They wanted to show that humans are more than just stimulus-response machines.

They theorised that the human mind doesn’t focus on individual details but rather on the big picture, based on their factual observations and hypotheses, their suppositions about causal links. They proposed that the mind views the minute elements of life, the minutia, as a part of a larger whole, rather than perceiving each of our senses as they assault us moment by moment.

It’s a multisensory psychological notion that’s used in therapy, design, and management research. Here, we’ll learn everything there is to know about Gestalt therapy, including its history and psychology.

What is Gestalt Therapy

Do you know what the terms “closure” and “unfinished business” mean?

Although these concepts have become part of the common vernacular, few people are aware that they have their origins in gestalt therapy.

Gestalt therapy is a popular and powerful type of treatment that has influenced worldwide culture and society. It is a synthesis of various theories and approaches that have been assembled and modified over time by a number of people, most notably its originator, Fritz Perls.

Although gestalt therapy is frequently referred to as a “fringe therapy,” it may be used in a variety of situations, including the clinic, the locker room, and the boardroom. Continue reading to learn more about this fascinating therapy.

Gestalt Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the present moment. Gestalt Therapy’s goal is to help people become more fully and creatively alive in order to achieve their highest levels of happiness, contentment, and growth.

In a person’s efforts to live a meaningful and satisfying life, the Gestalt approach seeks to foster awareness, enable creative choice, inspire responsibility, and facilitate connectedness.

Rather than science, this approach and specialty belong in the humanities. It is a state of being present that permits the therapist to listen with an open and nonjudgmental heart.

Gestalt therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on improving one’s interactions with others and the environment in general. The focus of process psychotherapy is on the process rather than distinct incidents. This means that gestalt therapists are more concerned with the overall process rather than specific events or experiences.

This is accomplished through a conscious, spontaneous, and real conversation between the client and the therapist. Gestalt psychotherapists work from a relational, here-and-now perspective, emphasising the client’s current interactions above their history and past experiences.

What is Gestalt Psychology

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought that holds that all things and scenes can be seen in their most basic forms. The ‘Law of Simplicity,’ as it is sometimes called, proposes that the whole of an object or scene is more important than its individual parts. Observing the big picture helps us find order in the midst of chaos and unity among seemingly unconnected sections and pieces of data.

Gestalt psychology presents a novel way of looking at human perception. We don’t just perceive the world, according to Gestalt psychologists; we actively interpret what we see based on what we expect to see. Anas Nin, a well-known French author who was not a psychologist, put it thus way: ‘We do not see the world as it is; we see it as we are.’

People who practise Gestalt psychology are encouraged to ‘think beyond the box’ and explore for patterns.

Gestalt theory was developed in opposition to the dominant structuralism of the time, which claimed that complex perceptions could be understood by breaking them down into smaller, more basic parts of experience, such as splitting graphical forms into sets of dots or melodies into a series of sounds. This hypothesis was challenged by Gestaltists, who claimed that the same melody might be recognised if transposed into a different key, and that perception of a rectangle may be produced in ways other than four lines. Wertheimer believed that the ability to see objects was a nervous system ability, as the nervous system tends to group objects that are close together, similar, make smooth lines, and form the majority of the shapes we can recognise.

These are the four Wertheimer’s laws of grouping:

  • Similarity – objects with similar properties (like shape or color) are grouped together
  • Proximity – objects nearby are grouped together
  • Continuation – objects that define smooth lines or curves are grouped together
  • Closure – if enough of the shape is presented, the whole is perceived by filling in the missing information

Origin of Gestalt Theory 

Gestalt theory arose in Austria and Germany as a reaction to the atomistic tendency of the associationist and structural schools (an approach which fragmented experience into distinct and unrelated elements). Instead of phenomenology, Gestalt studies were used. This style, which dates back to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, entails nothing more than the portrayal of direct psychological experience with no limitations on what can be described. 

Gestalt psychology was born out of a desire to bring a humanistic element to what was previously seen as a sterile approach to the scientific study of mental life. Gestalt psychology also aimed to include characteristics of form, meaning, and value that previous psychologists had either overlooked or assumed to be outside the scope of science.

The Gestalt school was founded in 1912 with the publication of Czech-born psychologist Max Wertheimer’s “Experimental Studien über das Sehen von Bewegung” (“Experimental Studies of Movement”). In it, Wertheimer discussed the findings of a study on apparent movement that he did with psychologists Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. For the next few decades, these three constituted the core of the Gestalt school.

The Gestalt researchers Wertheimer, Koffka, and Kohler discovered that grouping helps the human brain automatically organise and comprehend visual input.

They believed that the perception of the whole differs from the sum of individual pieces as a result of those “mental shortcuts.” The core assumption of Gestalt psychology, that the whole is different from the sum of its parts, challenged the dominant theory of Structuralism at the time.

This school of thought argued that mental processes should be broken down into their constituent parts so that they can be studied independently.

Complex senses, according to structuralists, can be comprehended by pinpointing the primitive feelings they generate, such as the points that make up a square or certain pitches in a symphony.

On the other hand, Gestalt proposes going in the opposite direction. It claims that the whole is grasped before the brain perceives the individual components, such as when we see the image of a face rather than a nose, two eyes, and the contour of a chin while looking at a photograph.

As a result, in order to comprehend the subjective nature of human experience, we must look beyond the individual elements and concentrate on the totality.

Gestalt psychology contributed to the understanding that human perception is impacted by factors other than what is truly there in the world around us.

Wertheimer created principles to explain how Gestalt perception functions. Some of the most important principles of Gestalt theory are:

Prägnanz: This foundational principle states that you will naturally perceive things in their simplest form or organization.

Similarity: This principle suggests that we naturally group similar items together based on elements like color, size, or orientation.

Proximity: The principle of proximity states that objects near each other tend to be viewed as a group.

Continuity: According to this principle, we will perceive elements arranged on a line or curve as related to each other, while elements that are not on the line or curve are seen as separate.

Closure: This suggests that elements that form a closed object will be perceived as a group. We will even fill in missing information to create closure and make sense of an object.

Common region: This principle states that we tend to group objects together if they’re located in the same bounded area.

Characteristics of Gestalt Theory

The use of gestalt concepts in education was suggested by Wertheimer. He made a distinction between constructive thinking and rote memorization, which occurs without comprehension. Humans, unlike animals, can learn not only through conditioning or trial and error, but also through explanations by altering their cognitive structure to match the explainer, however this should not be mistaken for rote learning.

Using gestalt principles, problem-solving combines learning and comprehension. This knowledge sticks with you for a long time and can be used to different circumstances. Gestaltism proposes that learners should be encouraged to find the complete essence of an issue or relationships between its pieces, as well as to rule out any implicit assumptions that may be wrong. Because the human mind operates according to the principles listed above, instructional design should be built on proximity, closure, similarity, and simplicity.

  • Gestalt psychology was founded on the idea of describing the laws of perception. According to them, perception allows us to gain worldly information, learn to communicate with others, and form bonds with people.
  • Instead of evaluating distinct variables in isolation, Gestalt psychologists took a holistic approach to mental health analysis.
  • Perceiving realities and structuring information based on prior experiences: We perceive reality and information differently when we are influenced by our past experiences. When a new scenario develops, we might adjust our mental processes or views.
  • Gestalt psychologists were critical of the main schools of thinking at the time, such as behaviourism and psychoanalysis. By putting overwhelming emphasis on stimulus and responses, behaviourism was seen as being rather narrowly minded. They claimed that the behavioural school of thought undervalued cerebral processes and human intelligence. They also chastised psychoanalytic thought for being overly passive and overemphasise the subconscious mind’s role in determining human behaviour.

How is Gestalt Theory Used in Coaching?

Gestalt therapy teaches clients how to distinguish between what is genuinely being experienced and what is only an interpretation of circumstances. Gestalt therapy involves exploring all of a person’s ideas, feelings, behaviours, beliefs, and values in order to gain a better understanding of how they express themselves and respond to events in their environment.

Finally, gestalt therapy is thought to assist people in better understanding how their emotional and bodily needs are intertwined. They will discover that understanding why they react and behave in specific ways requires awareness of their internal selves. Individuals who are guarded when it comes to their emotions and find it difficult to process why they feel and act the way they do would benefit from this voyage of self-discovery.

Gestalt therapy is seen to be particularly useful for treating a wide range of psychological difficulties, whether as a long-term treatment or as a quick and targeted method. It has been reported to be beneficial in the treatment of tension, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, depression, personality disorders, and other psychological issues. People who engage in gestalt therapy report feeling more self-assured, relaxed, and at ease with themselves. Gestalt approaches are frequently utilised in conjunction with other therapies such as bodywork, dance, art, theatre, and others. It improves perception and self-awareness. It focuses on the emotional components of people’s inter-relational dynamics with their social settings.

Gestalt Therapists choose language that will encourage change in the client. The following are ways that this can be accomplished (Seligman, 2006):

  • Emphasis on statements rather than questions to highlight a collaborative client-therapist relationship.
  • “I” statements are used to promote clients’ ownership of feelings rather than placing blame on others.

The study of how people arrange learning by looking at their actual experiences and consciousness is one component of Gestalt in phenomenology.

When training is linked to real-life events, learning is most effective. These learning events can drive the human brain to create a map of stimuli. Isomorphism is the term for the mapping process. The brain creates connections or traces that depict relationships that occur between conception and ideas, as well as imagery, as new thoughts and ideas are learned. This is the concept of trace theory. Gestalt learning promotes higher-order cognitive processes, leading learners to employ higher-order problem-solving abilities. They must examine the topic and look for underlying parallels that connect them into a unified whole.

Applications of Gestalt Theory of Learning 

Research into important psychological processes such as perception and attention: Gestalt thinkers have made enormous advances to understanding basic psychological processes such as perception and attention. Their insights have paved the way for more research and discoveries in this field by other minds. For example, research and advancements in this sector have aided researchers and people from other disciplines in more efficiently carrying out various programmes and treating various perceptual disorders using therapies.

Problem Solving: Gestalt psychologists emphasise productive thinking as a means of gaining newer ideas or experiencing a eureka moment. According to Wertheimer, productive thinking is applying creative ideas or rearranging problems creatively in order to find solutions. Reproductive thinking, on the other hand, focuses on a mechanical method to solving problems by applying previously acquired knowledge in the present. Reproductive thinking is considered as reactive or mechanical, but productive thinking is proactive.

Gestalt Psychology in Education: Gestalt psychologists saw pupils as more than merely data recording creatures, emphasising the importance of teaching them to come up with creative solutions on their own to deal with a variety of problems. In the field of education, the Gestalt technique can be used to gain deeper research insights and answers.

Communication and Gestalt Theory: Those working in the field of creative communication, such as artists, presenters, publicists, and designers, can benefit from the Gestalt approach. They can gain the attention of the audience and effectively transmit the desired message by appealing to the senses or perceptions of the ultimate audience by employing perceptual laws.

Educational Applications OF GESTALT THEORY OF LEARNING

The combination of gestalt psychology with gestalt theory yields a new theory known as gestalt psychopedagogy, which is concerned with specific teaching and learning processes as well as educational relationships. The main goal is to make learning a genuine experience of engagement with the environment and others, as well as a creative and forming experience.

1.Law of Proximity

Related topics or lessons should be taught aligned or closely to each other. This is why subtraction comes after addition, multiplication follows subtraction, and division follows multiplication. Consider teaching addition before moving on to polygons.

  1. Law of Similarity

To help learners acquire understanding more rapidly and effectively, similar lessons or materials should be grouped together. This is why lessons are broken down into units.

  1. Law of Closure

Learners may be more interested in figuring out what’s missing rather than concentrating on the supplied instructions if they have incomplete knowledge. Students will likely to focus on the confused element of the procedure rather than the entire process if they find a math method challenging because a question is left unanswered or a step is unclear. This is why kids become “stuck.” As a result, lessons should be made explicit and delivered in a straightforward manner.

  1. Law of Continuation

Lessons should be presented in a way that allows students to see them as linked and continuous. You now understand why the “Review” section of the lesson plan exists. Students will recognise that their new lesson has continuity and is connected to what they already know from the previous lesson in this way.

  1. Law of Pragnanz

According to Pragnanz, when things are grasped as a whole, thinking requires the least amount of energy. In a nutshell, lessons should be comprehensive and straightforward.

  1. Law of Figure/Ground

A figure must stand out from the background in order to be noticed. Important components of the lesson should be highlighted. Teachers should, for example, change their voice tone, write boldly, and underline the lesson’s most critical key terms.

Gestalt principles are widely applied in the planning and presentation of educational facilities. The focus of Gestalt theory is on the moment-to-moment sense of contact. It looks at the lives of both teachers and pupils with interest. It is interested in the complexities of experience, without ignoring anything and welcoming and enhancing everything that arises. It encourages learning via experience and learning through experience. It recognises the feelings and significance we attach to what we learn. Knowledge is defined as the ongoing organisation and reorganisation of data in response to demands, purposes, and meanings. It asserts that learning involves remodelling or understanding rather than accumulation. The interaction between professors and students is valued: it is a genuine meeting based on the exchange of ideas and feelings.

Strengths and Limitations of Gestalt Approach

The applicability of this technique in everyday life and the simplicity of its ideas are two of its greatest assets. In the light of perception, the theory gives us a better knowledge of how we interpret and see reality or make sense of the world around us. Furthermore, their recommendations for creative problem solving and constructive thinking, as well as the inputs they provide in Gestalt therapies connected to personal growth, are significant value additions.

The Gestalt theory, on the other hand, is not without its detractors. The notion has been criticised for being very individualistic, which may encourage individuals to act selfishly. They place a higher value on knowing oneself before learning about others. Second, several detractors said that the laws of perceptual organisation were unscientific, unclear, and obscure, and that they had no practical application.

Many aspects of our lives continue to be influenced by Gestalt theory of learning. Its emphasis on a holistic approach is crucial in domains such as cognitive psychology, perception, and social psychology.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of gestalt theory?

Gestalt theory emerged in Austria and Germany as a reaction to the associationist and structural schools’ atomistic tendencies (an approach which fragmented experience into distinct and unrelated elements). Gestalt psychology arose from a desire to add a humanistic dimension to what had previously been perceived as a sterile approach to the scientific study of mental life.

What is the application of gestalt theory of learning?

Gestalt psychologists place a premium on productive thinking when it comes to coming up with new ideas or having a eureka moment. Productive thinking, according to Wertheimer, is the application of creative ideas or the creative rearrangement of issues in order to find answers. Gestalt psychologists considered students as more than data collectors, emphasising the need of teaching them to come up with creative solutions to a variety of issues on their own.

What is the use of gestalt principles?

Problem-solving integrates learning and comprehension by employing gestalt concepts. This information lingers with you for a long time and can be applied to a variety of situations. Gestaltism advocates that students be pushed to seek for the whole essence of a problem or the links between its components, as well as to rule out any potentially incorrect implicit assumptions.

What is gestalt psychology?

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought that believes that all objects and settings can be seen in their simplest forms. The ‘Law of Simplicity,’ as it is commonly referred to, posits that the entirety of an object or scene is more significant than the components that make it up. Gestalt psychology offers a fresh perspective on human perception.

How is gestalt theory used in coaching?

Gestalt therapy teaches clients to discriminate between what they are truly experiencing and what they are simply interpreting. Gestalt therapy is delving into a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours, beliefs, and values in order to acquire a deeper understanding of how they express themselves and react to their surroundings.