A German psychological school of thought that brought forth the concept of gestalt, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, but more importantly expanded psychologist's understanding of how the brain organizes sensations into perceptions and how it groups stimuli. The Gestalt College is a part of Perceptual Psychology, the psychologists who enjoy optical illusions and M. C. Escher.

According to the Gestalt College, the sensations perceived by the eyes are grouped in two ways. First the brain selects what it considers to be the most obvious foreground and background. Then with each of the elements of foreground and background, the braind has a tendency to further group them as follows: Proximity, Similarity, Connectedness, Continuity of Patterns, and Closure.

Gestalt psychology is the school that puts emphasis on humans perceiving objects and patterns as whole units instead of disconnected collections of impressions. The idea of parts being seen as more than a sum of their parts was radical from the perspective of more traditional Structuralist and Functionalist psychology.

This school of psychology was pioneered by German psychologists Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka around 1914. The school was dissolved under pressure after the Nazis came to power in the 1930's. Hitler's dim view of intellectuals made the United States the final destination for many of the Gestalt school.

The most famous piece of Gestalt theory is the phi phenomenon experiment devised by Max Wertheimer. Despite the short lifespan of the Gestalt school much of the theory they tested is still influential in psychology especially in the study of learning and perception.

In the Transformers universe, "gestalt" is the unofficial generic term for a team of robots who combine together to form a larger robot. (They're also called "combiners" by the uninitiated.) The idea was borrowed from Voltron, but probably goes back much farther than that.

The first gestalt team was the Constructicons in 1985, and their success led to the rapid introduction of several teams in the next three years. These included the Aerialbots, the Protectobots, and the Technobots on the Autobot side, and the Stunticons, the Combaticons, the Terrorcons, the Predacons, the Seacons, and the Monster Pretenders on the Decepticon side.

These gestalt teams were all built on what was called the "Scramble City" model, after the Japanese toy line from which they were taken. Not only could any smaller gestalt team member become any arm or leg (something not possible with the Constructicon team), but they could be interchanged with arms and legs from other gestalts as well.

Cant... stop... the procrastination...

The Gestalt Psychologists investigated the way humans process information from a two dimensional surface, and outlined a series of visual principles of perception that are extremely relevant to this day, particularly in the fields of design. The Gestalt Principles are as follows:

  • Similarity. The human eye groups objects and forms that have similar size, shape, colour, spatial location, angle or value.
  • Proximity. The eye mentally correlates or distances objects depending on their nearness to each other.
  • Continuation. The viewers eye will naturally follow a line or curve, influencing the order in which they process objects on the page.
  • Closure. The eye mentally "completes" familiar forms, whether they are actually completed on the page or not.
  • Figure/Ground. The eye processes both a "figure" (an object, symbol or image placed on a plane} and a "ground" (usually rendered as a background). The ability to distinguish between the two is dependant on contrast level as well as all the principles listed above.
The Gestalt psychologists recognized that there is an interplay of tensions among shapes on a flat surface, because the appearance of any one element or shape depends upon it's surroundings. A good designer will realize that the eye is affected by all of these principles, and in order for a poster/advertisement/image to communicate quickly and effectively, it must explain a phenomenon n the minimum number of steps. The basic law of visual perception is that any stimulus pattern tends to be seen as a structure as simple as conditions permit.

These principles are most effective in revealing some of the more subtle triumphs of a good design - subconscious correlations we may not even be aware we are making.

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