In the Beginning…

Born: 1887, in Reval, Estonia

Family: -Father was the headmaster of the local school set up by the community

-Wilhelm (older brother) was a distinguished academician

-sisters were nurses and teachers

*education was very important in the family

Interests in science: -Kohler had a scientific background in physics, chemistry, and biology

-It was because of his interest in science he met the great Max Planck,

a physics professor at the University of Berlin

Other Interests: - a love for classical music

- a love for the piano

- a zest for the outdoors


*Many colleagues have often remarked over the years that Kohler was thought more like a physicist than a psychologist






1917 - "The Mentality of Apes"

1920 - "Physical Gestalten"

1921 - "Psychologische Forschung"

Kohler lived in Berlin

1929 - "Gestalt Psychology"


1938 - "The Place of Value in a World of Facts"


1940 - "Dynamics in Psychology"


1969 - "The Task of Gestalt Psychology"


1971 - "Selected Papers of Wolfgang Kohler"





Gestalt Psychology

Founders: Wolfgang Kohler, Max Wertheimer, and Kurt Koffka

One of the six main schools of psychology:

      1. Structuralism
      2. Functionalism
      3. Associationism
      4. Behaviorism
      5. Psychoanalysis
      6. Gestalt

Gestalt is defined as:

The German word for "form", meaning configuration, pattern, or organized whole

Key argument:

-The nature of the parts is determined by, and secondary to, the whole

-The whole is different from the sum of its parts

-One must examine the whole to discover what its natural parts are, and not proceed from

supposed elements into large entities

Gestalt psychologists developed five laws that govern human perception:

    1. Law of Proximity
    1. Law of Similarity
    1. Law of Good Continuation

      -Humans tend to continue contours whenever the elements of the pattern establish an implied direction

    2. Law of Closure

      -Humans tend to enclose a space by completing a contour and ignoring gaps in the figure

    3. Law of Pragnanz

      -A stimulus will be organized into as good (symmetrical, simple, and regular) as figure as possible

    4. Law of Figure/Ground

-A stimulus will be perceived as separate from it's ground

When and Why did it begin?

-The phi phenomenon is the illusion of movement created by presenting visual stimuli in rapid succession

    1. They saw that the behaviorists attempt to analyze behavior into stimulus response bonds as an ill-fated effort to carve the whole into its parts

2) They felt that psychology should continue to study conscious experience rather than shift

its focus to observable behavior


Gestalt Theory influenced:

      1. Philosophy
      2. Aesthetics
      3. Art

  In The End……


      1. Humanism
      2. Cognitive psychology


Kohler wrote many years later:

"We all had great respect for the exact methods by which certain sensory data and facts of memory were being investigated, but we also felt quite strongly that work of so little scope could never give us an adequate psychology of real human beings."



"The Mentality of Apes"


Tenerife in the Canary Islands

Naturalistic observation - recording subjects' naturally occurring behavior while they are in their natural environment


1) Perceptions - apes learned relationships among stimuli, rather than a: simple

response to an isolated stimulus (transposition)

2) Cognitions - the solution of a problem required not just the gradual accumulation

of new facts, but the reorganization of existing facts into a new,

coherent structure

- Kohler observed apes named Sulton, Grande, Konsul, and Chica

Simplest case: a desired object of food was placed on the other side of the fence at the

end of the alley - if the ape conceptualized the Gestalt, it turned back down the alley, went around the other side of the fence, and obtained the goal

Case on Sultan: Sultan was one of the brighter Chimpanzees, and is known for surviving the two and three stick problems. Kohler placed the fruit on the outside of the cage so the apes could not reach it. Sulton realized he had to insert the smaller bamboo rod into the larger one to reach the fruit because the smaller one was not long enough. When the shorter stick was long enough to reach the fruit, Sultan dropped the longer stick.

Case: Bananas hung from the ceiling - there were two boxes - one large and one small - neither alone could help the ape reach the bananas - the ape solved the problem by stacking the smaller on top of the larger box and stepped on both of them to reach the bananas. The ape learned to solve the problem quickly with further trials.

-These naturalistic observations of the apes led Kohler to define insight learning

-Insight learning: the appearance of a complete solution with reference to the whole lay

out of the perceptual or cognitive field

-"The Mentality of Apes" gave ground to science fiction writer Pierre Boule

      1. Planet of the Apes 2) 2001: Space Odyssey