Wolfgang Kohler

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					Wolfgang Kohler
The Foundations of Gesaltism
              Introduction to Kohler
   Kohler was born in Estonia, and earned his Ph.D from the University of
    Berlin in 1909 on psycho-acoustics.
   From 1910 to 1913 he collaborated with Wertheimer and Koffka, working on
    the foundations of what would become known as "Gestalt" theory.
   From 1913 to 1920, he was director of a research station in Canary Islands
    where he conducted behavioral research with animals.. Later he served as
    director of the Psychology Institute, Berlin.
   In 1925-26 Kohler was a visiting professor at Clark University in the United
    States. In 1934-35 he was William James Lecturer at Harvard and in 1935 a
    visiting professor at the University of Chicago.
   He came to the United States in 1934, where he became professor of
    psychology at Swarthmore College. Kohler is best known for the influence of
    his writings in the founding of the school of Gestalt psychology.
                  Kohler’s belief
   In the 1920s, many scientists thought that animals
    could only learn through trial and error. They thought
    that when an animal faced a problem, such as finding
    food, it would stumble around until it hit upon the right
    answer by trying different actions until it got lucky. But
    Kohler believed that animals, especially chimps, were
    much smarter than most people imagined. He believed
    that chimpanzees were capable of intelligence, and even
    insight. To test his ideas he did several experiments.
                    Chimp Experiments
   To get the bananas, the chimp would have to use an object as a tool. The objects in the play area
    included sticks of different lengths and wooden boxes.
   He discovered that chimpanzees were very good at using tools. They used sticks as rakes to pull
    in bananas places out of reach. And they also used sticks as clubs to bring down fruit hung
   Sometimes they stood long sticks on end and quickly climbed up the 7 meters and grabbed the
    bananas before the stick fell over. The chimpanzees also learned to use boxes as step ladders,
    dragging them under the hung bananas and even stacking several boxes on top of one another.
   Kohler's chimps were able to do more than use tools, he actually observed chimps building tools.
    For example, he observed chimps breaking off branches from a tree to make a "rake."
   One of the smartest chimps, Sultan, was given a very difficult problem. Kohler placed a bunch of
    bananas outside Sultan's cage and two bamboo sticks inside the cage. However, neither of the
    sticks was long enough to reach the bananas. Sultan pushed the thinner stick into the hollow of
    the thicker one, and created a stick long enough to pull in the bananas
   Other chimps have been observed using a short stick to bring in a long stick, and then using the
    long stick to bring in a bunch of bananas. Kohler believed that these chimps showed insight --
    acting as if they "saw" the solution before carrying out the actions. However, not all scientists
    agree with this idea
                             The Gesalt Theory
   Kohler had a big influence on the Gesalt Theory
   The Gestalt theory hypothesizes that an individual’s perception of stimuli has an affect on their response. If two individuals are
    exposed to identical stimuli, their reactions to it would be different, depending on their past experiences.
   This was demonstrated in a study showing subjects chess pieces on a game board. They were shown the board briefly and asked to
    reconstruct what they saw. They were allowed successive brief looks at the board until they were able to reconstruct the entire
    board. The study found that experienced chess players did better than inexperienced subjects, when the pieces were situated in a
    way that resembled an actual game, than if the pieces were placed in a random order (Cook, 1993). This study demonstrated that
    the subject’s past experiences affected their perception of the stimuli and as a result, affected their response to the stimuli, which
    was their ability to reconstruct the game board.
   Gestaltists believe that individuals group stimuli in their own perception. This grouping in perception depends on several factors
    which can be considered the laws of Gestalt theory. The basic law of Gestalt theory, the law of Pragnanz, "implies that if a
    perceptual field is disorganized when an organism first experiences it, the organism imposes order on the field in a predictable
   There are five other laws related to the law of Pragnanz: (1) Similarity: similar items tend to grouped, (2) Proximity: items are
    grouped according to the nearness of their respective parts, (3) Closure: completed items are grouped together; (4) Good
    Continuation: an example would be that straight lines appear to continue as straight lines, and curves as curves; (5) Membership
    Character: a single part of a whole is defined by the context in which it appears
   When an individual encounters stimuli, it tries to make sense of the stimuli. An example of this concept is pattern recognition. If
    we encounter a pattern, such as an incomplete letter, we can still recognize the object as the letter to which we are familiar. In this
    example, we would use the law of closure to "close" the pattern to create a whole letter. Being able to close the pattern would use
    our prior knowledge of the letter.

   Kohler believed that the chimpanzees used their prior attempts to determine their next attempt. Kohler theorized that the
    monkeys used insight to solve the problem
            Gesalt Theory cont’d
   In summary, the Gestalt Theory believes individuals use
    insight and their prior experiences to determine their
    responses to stimuli. They also use the laws of Gestalt
    Theory to try to make sense of, and provide order to,
    information in their perception. This information leaves
    a trace in memory; traces link together to form
    connections of information. The Gestalt theory is
    closely related to the present day cognitive
    constructivist view of learning. Problem solving is a
    good choice of instructional methods to use to
    incorporate the beliefs of the Gestalt theory.