Seeing Things Whole
The founding of Gestalt psychology is a lesson of chance favoring the prepared mind. Franz Brentano had two famous students who would carry on his ideas and provide a bridge to an entirely new school of psychology based on the natural tendency of humans and other higher animals to perceive and to act in goal-directed, holistic ways: Carl Stumpf and Christian von Ehrenfels. The founding and growth of Gestalt psychology follows Thomas Kuhn’s view of how a new school arises and attempts to overthrow a prevailing paradigm. Gestaltists believed in psychophysical isomorphism or a one-to-one correspondence between sensation and perception of wholes. The Gestaltist perspective on problem solving led to a small industry of devising problems that lead to an “aha” experience when solved. Of the founding Gestaltists, Kurt Lewin was most interested in taking Gestalt theory beyond perception and cognition into social, organizational and developmental psychology.