What do Gestalt therapists believe?
Gestalt psychologists believe that people don’t look at objects as single lines, curves, shapes and other figures, they perceive them as whole objects. Because of this, they might see a table, on a floor, in a room. When you take it a step further, there are a number of principles that individuals use when perceiving those items as a whole. “The laws of perceptual organization, or laws of grouping-configuration, indicate the priority of perception in Gestalt theory and show how a perceiver groups together certain stimuli and, thereby, how one structures and interprets a visual field (cf., autochthonous laws – the innate understanding of perceptions or proper behavior that individuals obey without experience or instruction). A few of these subsidiary laws are: figure-ground, proximity, similarity, common direction/good continuation, continuity, inclusiveness, simplicity, and common fate” (GESTALT THEORY/LAWS, 6006.
Figure-ground would explain how individuals are able to differentiate between a figure located in the foreground, and separate them from the background. Proximity helps to explain how an individual might be considered a part of a group of individuals due to their physical proximity or closeness to one another. Similarity would explain grouping individuals or things together due to the similar nature of those individuals or things. An example of this would be grouping things based on the color of their skin, clothing, or other marks. Common direction, common good and continuation all deal with an individuals desire to complete a pattern or curve that has already been established. An example of this in in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit when the Private Eye was trying to locate Roger, who was hiding at the time, tapped out the first few notes of Shave and a Haircut. Roger came flying out singing, “Twooooo Bitssssssssss!” thus, completing the pattern.
I would have to believe that for the most part, Gestaltists are correct about how individuals see things, however I do believe that there are individuals who based upon their upbringing and situational exposures that do not conform to some of the Gestalt assumptions. For instance, the similarity grouping does explain stereotypical assumptions that many in our society make. If someone were to only have negative experiences with young African-Americans, they may make the assumption that all young African-Americans create negative experiences. Gestalt would seem to make this an acceptable response, and I would definitely argue it is not an acceptable attitude to have.
GESTALT THEORY/LAWS. (2006). In Elsevier’s Dictionary of Psychological Theories. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/estpsyctheory/gestalt_theory_laws
Glicksohn, A., & Cohen, A. (2011). The role of gestalt grouping principles in visual statistical learning. Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, 73(3), 708-713. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/920258393?accountid=27313