chapter  15
26 Pages

The Frame of Reference

What did the Gestaltists mean by “ framework” and, apart from that historical question, what would be the clearest way to define it? The Gestalt meaning is best understood in terms of their critique of elementaristic theories. For example, Hering (1861) sought to explain the perception of the orientation of a line in terms of the sum of the elementary sensations of the directions of its separate points within a retinal coordinate system centered on the fovea. The vertical image of a line would then give rise to the perception of a vertical line because each retinal locus stimulated would have a constant X coordinate and a varying Y coordinate. Now consider how that same vertical image appears through a tube

pointed at a tilted mirror, as suggested by Wertheimer (1912). (See also, Koffka (1935), p. 215.) After a few moments, in which the mirror world looks tilted, a “ righting” occurs so that it looks upright. Now a vertical contour in the scene that gives rise to an oblique image on the retina appears to be vertical and, conversely, any tilted contour in the scene that happens to produce a vertical image on the retina appears to be tilted.1