Wednesday, 17 October 2012

EXERCISE: Gestalt & Groupings

Gestalt therapy entered prominence in the 1960s with its most popular proponent Fritz Perls.  As mentioned in an earlier posting, Gestalt therapy focuses on the here and now and its examinations into the patient’s psychological past are viewed, most specifically, with the patient’s reactions in the present.

Another interesting hallmark of this particular school of psychology is its understanding of the way individuals perceive their world.  The origin of the word “Gestalt” is German and is defined by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts.”  To put it simply, the human mind categorizes visual stimuli into a functional whole that can be readily perceived by the viewer.   As an example, consider the following exercise:

What does (A) depict?


 What does (B) depict?


The truth of both representations is that each of them simply illustrates dots on a page.  Individuals familiar with the English alphabet, however, view (A) as the letter “M” and this is not because it is truly represented but because their minds have grouped the dots into the recognizable form of a familiar English letter.  The individual’s mind connected the dots automatically, where no actual connection existed (see figure [C]).  


Contrarily, because the mind could not find a familiar grouping in depiction (B) the individual perceives that depiction as a random congregation of dots or may view it in dissimilar ways, such as a snake or winding road etc. 

In everyday life, the Gestalt of human perception can be encountered everywhere.  With some variation, examples include proximity groupings in phone numbers, paragraphs in essays or the infamous branding of French Connection with their logo “FCUK.”

"I think creating two groups here should be fairly easy."

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