In American psychology, it is rightly regarded as a virtue if a man feels great respect for method and for caution. But, if this virtue be- comes too strong, it may bring forth a spirit of skepticism and thus pre- vent new work. Too many young psychologists, it seems to me, either work only against something done by others or merely vary slightly what others have done before; in other words, preoccupation with method may tend to limit the range of our research.
We are, of course, after clear evidence. But not in all parts of psychology can evidence im- mediately be clear. In some, we cannot yet use our most exact methods. Where this happens, we hesitate to proceed. Experimentalists in particu- lar tend to avoid work on new materials resistant to approved methods and to the immediate application of perfectly clear concepts. But con- cepts in a new field can only be clarified by work in this field. Should we limit our studies to areas already familiar from previous research?
Obviously, this would mean a kind of conservatism in psychology. When I was his student, Max Planck repeated this warning over and over again in his lectures. Our wish to use only perfect methods and clear concepts has led to methodological behaviorism. Human experience in the phenomenologi- cal sense cannot yet be treated with our most reliable methods; and, when dealing with it, we may be forced to form new concepts which, at first, will often be a bit vague.
Most experimentalists, therefore, refrain from observing, or even from referring to, the phenomenal scene. And yet, this is the scene on which, so far as the actors are concerned, the drama of ordinary human living is being played all the time. If we never study this scene, but insist on methods and concepts developed in re- search "from the outside," our results are likely to look strange to those who intensely live "inside.
But this material as such contains no direct evidence as to the processes by which it is brought about. In this respect it is a slightly defective, I am tempted to say, a meager, material. For it owes its particular clearness to the fact that the data from which the graphs and tables are derived are severely selected data.
When subjects are told to say no more than "louder," "softer," and per- haps "equal" in certain experiments, or when we merely count how Gestalt Psychology Today : 9 many items they recall in others, then we can surely apply precise sta- tistical techniques to what they do. But, as a less attractive consequence, we never hear under these circumstances how they do the comparing in the first case, and what happens when they try to recall in the second case.
Are such questions now to be ignored? After all, not all phenomenal experiences are entirely vague; this Scheerer has rightly emphasized. And, if many are not yet accessible to quantitative procedures, what of it? One of the most fascinating disciplines, developmental physiology, the science investigating the growth of an organism from one cell, seldom uses quantitative techniques. And yet, nobody can deny that its merely qualitative description of morphogenesis has extraordinary sci- entific value.
In new fields, not only quantitative data are relevant.
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As to the initial vagueness of concepts in a new field, I should like to add an historical remark. When the concept of energy was first introduced in physics, it was far from being a clear concept. For decades, its meaning could not be sharply distinguished from that of the term "force. They worked and worked on it, until at last it did become perfectly clear. There is no other way of dealing with new, and therefore not yet perfect, concepts. Hence, if we refuse to study the phenomenal scene, because, here, few concepts are so far entirely clear, we thereby decide that this scene will never be investigated at least not by us, the psychologists.
Now, I had better return to Gestalt psychology. Let me try to show you how Gestalt psychology tends to work today by discussing a more specific issue, an issue on which scores of American psychologists have worked for years. We shall thus be enabled to compare the way in which they approach this issue with the Gestalt psychologists' approach.
The issue in question refers to the concepts of conditioning and mo- tivation. One school seems to regard conditioning as almost the process with which the psychologist has to deal. In a famous book with the general title Principles of Behavior, the late Clark Hull, then the most influential member of the school, actually dealt with little else al- though he often used other terms. He felt that even such facts as think- ing, insight, intentions, striving, and value would eventually be ex- plained by a consistent investigation of the various forms of condition- ing.
We are all familiar with the basic concepts of his theory. Hence I will say only a few words about it. When conditions in an animal's tissue deviate from an optimal level, a state of need is said to exist in this tissue. Such needs produce, or simply are, drives which means that 10 : Wolfgang Kohler they tend to cause actions in the nervous system, some more or less pre- scribed by inherited neural connections, others of a more random na- ture. Drives are also called motivations. None of these terms is to be understood in a phenomenological sense. They always refer to assumed states of the tissue.
The main point is that, for biological reasons, states of need must, if possible, be reduced and that this may be achieved by certain responses of the organism to the given situation. In case first responses are of a random character, learning or conditioning will often select such responses as do reduce the needs in question. In a simple formulation, the well-known rule which governs such developments is as follows: when a response has repeatedly occurred in temporal con- tiguity with the neural effects of a certain stimulus, then this stimulus will tend to evoke the same response in the future provided the re- sponse has caused a reduction of the need.
I will not define such further concepts as habit strength, reaction potential, afferent stimulus inter- action, reactive inhibition, and so forth, because they will play no role in my discussion. But one term seems to me particularly important. Many recent, and important, investigations are concerned with so-called "learned drives," an expression which has, of course, this meaning: if a neutral stimulus is repeatedly followed by conditions which cause a primary state of drive such as pain, and the corresponding fear, then the fear with its usual effects on behavior will gradually become connected with that neutral stimulus, so that the stimulus alone now evokes the fear and its overt consequences.
Certain drives are therefore said to be "learn- able" in the sense that they can be attached to facts which, as such, are not related to the drive and hence would originally not evoke corre- sponding responses. Some experiments in the field of conditioning in general are most interesting. I will only discuss the concepts used in the interpretation of this work and the conclusions which it is said to justify. To begin with these conclusions: They refer to certain human ex- periences which, if the conclusions were justified, would have to be re- garded as strange delusions. I mean our cognitive experiences.
Suppose somebody discovers by accident that, every time he subtracts the square of a given integer from the square of the next integer in the series, the result is an odd number. A more learned friend now explains to him why this is a necessary rule, undoubtedly valid beyond any tests ever done by a person. The explanation refers to simple relations and to rela- tions among relations all readily understandable and the final out- Gestalt Psychology Today : 11 come is convincing.
Now, is the understanding of the relations involved to be explained in terms of conditioning? Nothing in conditioning seems to give us access to the psychological fact which I just called under- standing; and, since an understanding of relations is essential to all cognitive achievements, the same applies to the whole field. Explanation of our intellectual life in terms of conditioning would simply mean: its reduction to the operations of an often most practical, but intrinsically blind, connection of mere facts.
Promises that such an explanation will nevertheless be achieved cause in the present speaker a mild, incredulous horror. It is not the business of science to destroy evi- dence. Behaviorists would perhaps answer that arguments which refer to human thinking as an experience are irrelevant, because science is only concerned with facts observable from the outside, and therefore objective. This answer would hardly be acceptable. The behaviorist's own objective observations are invariably observations of facts in his perceptual field.
No other form of objective observation has ever been discovered. Consequently, the behaviorist cannot, without giving more particular reasons, reject reference to other individual experiences merely because they are such experiences. Thus we are justified in considering a further example of human experience.
A need or drive, we are sometimes told, is a motivation. I do not entirely agree with this statement for the following reasons. A need or drive, we remember, is supposed to be a particular state in the tissue. There is no indication in Hull's writings that such a state "points beyond itself" toward any objects although it may, of course, cause movements, or actions of glands. Now it is true that the same holds for certain needs as human experiences; because, when a need is felt, it does not always point toward an object, attainment of which would satisfy the need.
At the time, no such object may be in sight; in fact, no such object may yet be known. But when the proper object appears, or be- comes known, then the situation changes. For, now the subject feels attracted or in certain instances repelled by this object. In other words, an object may have characteristics which establish a dynamic relation between the subject and that object.
According to common experience, it is this dynamic relation which makes the subject move toward, or away from, the object. We ought to use different terms for a mere need per se and the situation in which a subject is attracted or re- pelled by an object. Otherwise, the dynamic aspect of the latter situation might easily be ignored. I suggest that we reserve the term "motivation" for this dynamic situation. Here we are, of course, on familiar ground. He clearly recognized the part which certain characteristics of an object play in establishing the dynamic relation between this object and the subject.
He called such characteristics of objects Aufforde- rungscharaktere, a term which then became "valences" in English. So far as I know, there are no valences in objects, no attractions and no repulsions between objects and subjects in the behaviorist's vocabu- lary. I am afraid that, in this fashion, he misses a point not only im- portant in human experience but also relevant to what he regards as true science. How would a Gestalt psychologist handle motivation in the present sense?parcelcheck.co.za/adjectives-are-describing-words-teaching-young.php
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He would begin with the following psychological facts. I do not know up to what point Lewin would have accepted what I am now going to say. My facts are these: a In human experience, motivation is a dynamic vector, that is, a fact which has a direction and tends to cause a displacement in this direction, b Unless there are obstacles in the way, this direction coincides with an imaginary straight line drawn from the object to the subject, c The direction of the experienced vector is either that toward the object or away from it.
In the first case, the vector tends to reduce the distance in question; in the second, to increase it. Both in man and in animals it has been observed that, when the strength of the valence is low, this reduction can be compensated for by an increase of the need in the subject; and, conversely, that, when the need is lowered, an increase of the strength of the valence may compensate for this change. When considering these simple statements, anybody familiar with the elements of physics will be reminded of the behavior of forces, a In physics, forces are dynamic vectors which tend to change the distance between one thing or event and another, b Unless there are obsta- cles in the way, a force operates along a straight line drawn from the first object or event to the other, c The direction in which a force operates is either that of an attraction or of a repulsion, of a reduction or of an increase of the given distance, d The formula by which the intensity of a force between two objects is given contains two terms which refer to the sizes of a decisive property for instance, an electric charge in one object and in the other.
It is always the product of these two terms on which, according to the formula, the intensity of the force depends.
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Consequently, a reduction of the crucial term on one side can be compensated for by an increase of the term on the other side. Gestalt Psychology Today : 13 We have just seen that the behavior of vectors in motivational situa- tions is the same as the behavior of forces in nature. Gestalt psycholo- gists are, therefore, inclined to interpret motivation in terms of such forces or, rather, of forces which operate between certain perceptual processes and processes in another part of the brain, where a need may be physiologically represented.
We have no time to discuss the question how cortical fields or forces would cause overt movements of the organ- ism in the direction of these forces. Now, not everybody likes the term "force. But, in human psychology, we simply must use terms which if I may use this expression "sound human. To be sure, in physics, Heinrich Hertz once tried to do without the concept "force.
And what happened? He had to populate the physical world with unobservable masses, introduced only in order to make their hidden presence substitute for the much simpler action of forces. Ever since that time, physicists have happily returned to the old concept "force," and nobody has ever been harmed by the fact. The present reasoning leads to a conclusion which distinguishes this reasoning from the treatment of motivation in the behaviorisf s system.
Clark Hull was a great admirer of science; but, to my knowledge, he hardly ever used the concepts characteristic of field physics. The funda- mental distinction between physical facts which are scalars that is, facts which have a magnitude but no direction and vectors which have both an intensity and a direction played no decisive part in his theoriz- ing. His main concepts were obviously meant to be scalars.
There is no particular spatial direction in a habit strength, none in a reaction poten- tial, and none even in what he called a drive state. Hence, the core of modern physics as developed by Faraday and Maxwell had no influence on his system. For this reason, and also because he refused to consider motivation as an experienced vector, he could not discover that the operations of motivation appear to be isomorphic with those of fields or forces in the brain.
But, if motivation is to be interpreted in this fashion, certain assump- tions often made by behaviorists may no longer be acceptable. Take the concept of learned drives. As I understand this term, it means that learning can attach a drive state to a great variety of stimuli which, as such, are neutral facts. Now, so long as a drive is not regarded as a 14 : Wolfgang Kohler vector, this seems indeed quite possible. But, if the drive in Hull's sense is replaced by a motivational force which operates between a subject and some perceptual fact, no arbitrary connections of this kind can be established.
For, now motivation becomes the experienced counterpart of a force in the brain, and this force depends entirely upon the relation between conditions in the subject and the characteristics of the per- ceived object. There can be no such force if the object is, and remains, a neutral object. Forces only operate between objects which have the right properties.
Any example of a force in nature illustrates this fact. How, then, are the observations to be explained which are now in- terpreted as a learning of drives? After all, some learning must be in- volved when an originally neutral object gradually begins to attract or repel a subject. From the present point of view, only one explanation is possible. Supposing that the subject's need does not vary, learning must change the characteristics of the object, and thus transform it into an adequate motivational object.
One instance would be what Tolman calls a sign Gestalt; in other words, the neutral object would become the signal for the appearance of something else which is a proper motivational object. This expected object would now be the object of the motivation. Or also, when a neutral object is often ac- companied by facts which are natural motivational objects, the char- acteristics of such facts may gradually "creep into" the very appearance of the formerly neutral object and thus make it a proper motivational object.
Years ago, comparative psychologists in England stressed the importance of such processes, to which they gave the name "assimila- tion. And is it not true that, as a consequence of learning, a coffin looks forbidding or sinister? I also know somebody to whom a bottle covered with dust and just brought up from the cellar looks most attractive. As a further and particularly simple possibility, the subject might just learn more about the characteristics of the given object itself than he knew in the beginning; and the characteristics revealed by this learning might be such that now the same object fits a need.
It seems to me that all these possibilities ought to be considered before we accept the thesis that motivations in the present sense can be attached to actu- ally neutral objects. Incidentally, similar changes of objects may also be responsible for the developments which Gordon Allport once re- garded as evidence of "functional autonomy. Most surely, they do. But, since I have lived so long Gestalt Psychology Today : 15 in America, and have therefore gradually become a most cautious scientist, I am now preparing myself for the study of motivation by investigating, first of all, the action of dynamic vectors in simpler fields, such as cognition and perception.
It is a most interesting occupation to compare motivational action with dynamic events in those other parts of psychology. When you do so, everything looks different, not only in perception but also in certain forms of learning. Specific work? There is, and will be, more of it than I alone can possibly manage. Consequently, I need help. And where do I expect to find this help? I will tell you where. The behaviorist's premises, we remember, lead to certain expecta- tions and experiments. What I have just said invites us to proceed in another direction.
I suggest that, in this situation, we forget about schools. The behaviorist is convinced that his functional concepts are those which we all ought to use. The Gestalt psychologist, who deals with a greater variety of both phenomenal and physical concepts, ex- pects more from work based on such premises. Both parties feel that their procedures are scientifically sound.
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Why should we fight? Many experiments done by behaviorists seem to me to be very good experi- ments. May I now ask the behaviorists to regard the use of some phe- nomenal facts, and also of field physics, as perfectly permissible? If we were to agree on these points, we could, I am sure, do excellent work together. It would be an extraordinary experience and good for psy- chology. With the will to truth it stands or falls.
Lower the standard even slightly and science becomes diseased at the core. Not only science, but man. The will to truth, pure and un- adulterated, is among the essential conditions of his existence; if the standard is compromised he easily becomes a kind of tragic caricature of himself. The scientific situation with reference to the theory of truth is com- plicated at present. In the last decades logicians and epistemologists have worked intensively on its problems; many complications have emerged; some of them seemed to menace the whole inquiry. New ap- proaches have been made, much positive work has been done.
In this paper I shall discuss only one aspect of the problems, and in the simplest way. What follows has to do with things that the natural man feels as self-evident; but the theory must envisage these things. Examples will be drawn from everyday life. I begin with the classical definition of truth, a point of departure that lends itself to the simplest exposition of the subject, although what I have to say applies equally to many other approaches. According to the traditional definition it is propositions that are true and false.
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A statement or proposition is true which corresponds with its object, and Reprinted with permission from Social Research, Vol. Truth, so conceived, is a general quality of propositions. It is a ques- tion of the relationship between the proposition on the one hand and the object on the other. Many new problems emerged in the criticism of this old formulation: for example, what, strictly, did the term "correspondence" mean, what could it mean?
What is meant when we say a proposition should "cor- respond" with its object? Or when the question is raised as to whether reference to the object does not involve an illegitimate transition? There are many other fundamental questions that have led to new formula- tions. But regardless of the necessity for changing the definition of truth in the sense of these objections and regardless of the great importance of these changes in some respects, the claim contained in the simple form of the old definitions is in itself important enough.
Statistics, pub- lications of one kind or another, do contain figures that are plainly false; in this respect there is lack of conscientiousness and worse. The standard is often lowered, especially in general statements in which whole realms of thought are disposed of on the basis of personal pre- dispositions or of a few individual facts. What the old definition requires is straightforward fidelity to facts in the sense in which a proposition corresponds or fails to correspond with the facts.
But truth demands more. If we consider the function of truth in life, in living thought and being, then the old definition is unsatisfactory. I will touch here only on one relatively simple point. An example: a man hires another to steal something out of a desk; the theft is discovered; it has been established that the second man was seen near the house; the judge, who does not know their connection, asks the first man whether he took the article from the desk; the first man answers "No," gives his alibi, and is discharged. He did not take the article from the desk. His statement that he did not is true according to the definition.
Nevertheless, he lied. The difficulty need not necessarily invalidate the classical definition of truth. One could say that the difficulty was due to the way in which the suspect was questioned. The investigator should have asked, not "Did you take the article from the desk? The judge's stupidity is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the fact that the man would have made an untrue statement, had he said that he did take it. In the old On Truth ; 21 terminology, this is known as the false conclusion based on many ques- tions.
Or another explanation may be offered. One may point out that the word "taking" means not only the physical fact of taking but like- wise its cause. There are two meanings of the word "take. But solutions of this kind tend to eliminate the problem instead of solving it. The issue is waived. The way to go about solving the problem, it would seem to me, is to attack it directly. The investigator's question to the suspect is not an isolated fact in a vacuum. It is an integral part of a well-defined situation in which the investigator, the suspect, and the theft form a characteristic whole.
The detail that the suspect did not himself remove the valuables from the desk stands in an important and characteristic relation in the whole situation. Were the suspect really not guilty, had he nothing to do with the whole thing, then this detail would in the new whole have an entirely different function, a different significance, a different role. The proposition, the statement, "I did not take it from the desk," corresponds with reality; but with a piecemeal reality, torn from its context, seen as a piece, blind as to its connections as a part in a related whole; or in another related whole in which the suspect appears inno- cent.
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The real truth must take account of any statement, and equally of its corresponding object, as parts of related wholes. A thing may be true in the piecemeal sense, and false, indeed a lie, as a part in its whole. We must distinguish the object as piece ja , the object as part of its whole O Q , , the object as part of another whole For the time being let us indicate piecemeal truth and falsity by t and f ; and by T and F what we have called the real truth, in which the state- ment and its object are considered as parts in their related wholes.
The example that we have been discussing is of the form tF. For the function of truth and falsity, it is not a question only of the statement in itself an sich , but of the statement S and the object O as parts of their wholes; S and O, in their roles, in their functions as parts of their wholes. The truth here does not consist only in the correspondence between the proposition and its crude, isolated object.
If the object turns out to be a part in the pattern of a definite situation, then the proposition is really true when it corresponds not only with the part as such but with the role that it plays in the whole. If each item in the situation were isolated from every other, if our If, however, these facts or data exist, not in isolation but as parts of a whole, determined by their func- tion in this whole, then it leads to blind and false conclusions to consider them as pieces.
The whole plan of traditional logic, in all its rules and its general laws, is set up to deal with piecemeal content in a summation relation. And for this it is adequate. Logistic Logistik , the study of relational networks and of implicit definitions, provides the possibility, indeed the necessity, for seeing con- tent as a part of its whole, but in a limited sense. It defines content by its place in the relational network, but the network is built up as a sum- mation. Logistic has failed hitherto to study the relationship between content as piece and content as part.
In reality we frequently have the possibility of considering as pieces what are really parts of a system. Science for the most part indeed finds itself in this situation, at least in the early stages of a problem. Before we proceed, let us consider briefly some other examples of this form. A newspaper writes: "We know now just what to expect from Minister X.
Such are the steps he intends to take! At the banquet held on the twenty-seventh of this month, he declared himself against. In the course of the last decades a whole technique of the form tF has been developed, the technique of doctoring balances, etc. This does not refer necessarily only to deliberately misleading fig- ures. Simultaneous newspaper reports on the same facts in journals be- longing to different political parties afford the psychologist and the logician a veritable treasure house of the various forms of tF.
Moreover it is not at all necessary to conceal any of the relevant de- tails in order to arrive at blind or false statements in the sense of tF. All the data may be laid before the reader or hearer but in such a way as to deceive him by the technique of shifting the emphasis, displacing the center of gravity Umcentrierung. An example of the simplest tech- nique: during the war newspapers in some countries were compelled to give out reports in the exact words of the general staff. They achieved what they wanted by the use of heavy type for some parts, and it often happened that in this way entirely opposite impressions were produced.
On Truth : 23 I remember cases in which I received so strong an impression that the reports were different, that I could not believe they were the same until I had compared them word for word. These were cases of the form tF. Instead of the two truth values t and f , we have schematically the four combinations tF, tT, fF, fT.
That there are cases of tT and fF is clear. Are there also cases of f T, that is, false as pieces, true with respect to the whole, to reality? Yes: for example, an excellent caricature. It may be wrong in practically every detail and yet be a truer representation of its object than a photograph which is accu- rate in every detail.
Other cases are anecdotes and stories about men, events and ages which are known to be inventions yet nevertheless hit the nail on the head. Se non e vero, 6 ben trovato. But of course it must be ben trovato. Propositions of this type present an inherent danger, however. The danger is due to the fact that it is usually easier to prove the truth of an item in isolation than in its role in the whole. Indeed, many propositions for which the claim is made that they are true in relation to the whole, to the essence, are really false both in themselves and in relation to the whole.
If, then, we are really to find out what is true and what is false, we must direct our attention to the role of any particular item in the whole of which it is a part. This necessity has generated a number of problems that are as inter- esting as they are difficult. The basic problem here is the function of a part as a part of its whole. It is a central problem for the Gestalt theory. We may formulate it as follows. Facts occur in these ways: first, in isolation, as such, or as units in a sum; secondly, as parts of their wholes and a part may figure in two or more different wholes.
Often there is the possibility too of cutting off as a piece what should really figure as a part. What are the differences in these cases? One may ask why we speak of two kinds of truth and not merely of two kinds of data. The answer is that the two kinds of truth may deal with the same data, but that one T,F goes to the heart of the matter while the other t,f may remain external namely, when the set of facts is not merely a sum. The approach that we have used, the formulation of a truth function T,F in relation to the old t,f, is not the only possible theoretical ap- proach.
The attempt can be made to do justice to objects by other 24 : Max Wertheimer approaches. The problems in question can only be pointed out, they cannot be dealt with even briefly here. But what is necessary is that the theory clearly envisage these objects. From whatever angle we approach the theory, concrete problems of research are generated in any serious attempt at a theoretical solution.
Remote as it may appear from logic as customarily defined and treated, we need a logic of objects.
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If there is any objection to calling it logic, the name is a matter of indifference. I believe that these questions rightly belong to logic; they are not questions merely of psychological fact but they raise issues in terms of correct, incorrect, adequate, true, false, logical, illogical. Attempting to find a different approach, one may say that the truth function is not touched in all this, that in the burglary example, for instance, the difficulty is a matter simply of variously defined concepts.
We need only to define carefully and to agree on definitions. Can any one suppose that all the difficulties consist solely in the failure to define clearly? Your Email:. Colleague's Email:.
Separate multiple e-mails with a ;. Send a copy to your email. Some error has occurred while processing your request. Please try after some time. Talland George A. Documents of Gestalt Psychology. Add Item s to:. This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Gestalt Psychology. Review by: Leo Angelo Spiegel A comprehensive discussion of gestalt psychology is offered by the author. Quick Search :. Spiegel, L. Psychoanal Q.
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