A century of Gestalt psychology in perceptual organization: A brief historical, conceptual and methodological introduction
Johan Wagemans, University of Leuven (K.U. Leuven), Belgium
In 1912, Max Wertheimer published his paper on phi motion, widely recognized as the start of Gestalt psychology. Because of its continued relevance in modern psychology, this centennial anniversary is an excellent opportunity to take stock of what Gestalt psychology has offered and how it has changed since its inception. In this brief introduction, I will provide some historical, conceptual and methodological background to the symposium. I first introduce the key findings and ideas in the Berlin school of Gestalt psychology, sketch its historical origins, and then trace its development, rise, and fall. Next, I discuss its conceptual and methodological problems, and indicate how they are addressed in contemporary research on perceptual organization. I will conclude by arguing for a multi-method approach, including the phenomenological analysis of the percept under scrutiny. If anything should survive from Gestalt psychology in contemporary vision science, it is the emphasis on this crucial step.