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Gestalt theory

Gestalt theory belongs to a family of the intellectual approaches to creativity. Gestalt is German for "shape" or "configuration", a set of elements such as a person's thoughts and experiences considered as a whole and regarded as amounting to more than the sum of its parts. Gestalt theory was originally formulated by von Ehrenfeld and developed by Wertheimer, K?hler, and Koffka in 1910s as a reaction against associationism that had dominated psychology. It was an application of field theory, newly developed in physics, to the study of human perception. It suggests that people have a natural inclination to organize perceptions into "gestalts" or wholes and to find meanings in what they perceive. The relations between the associated parts of a whole set of stimuli are particularly important, for these endow the whole with more meaning than the sum of its parts. Gestalt theory suggests that one tends particularly to organize one's perceptions into "good" gestalts - to perceive sets of stimuli as wholes in which there is harmony, closure or symmetry among the parts. Wertheimer (1945) described a problem as an incomplete structure or bad gestalt, which causes intellectual tensions. Such tensions, he said, drive one to find a solution to the problem that brings a sense of harmony between the parts and the whole structure, so that the whole has symmetry and elegance. In essence, Wertheimer's notion of the creative process - as the destruction of an existing gestalt in the service of building a better one - may be expressed as the reorganization of integration of existing items of knowledge and ideas into a new, internally consistent form. However, gestalt formation, which was proclaimed as a set of universal principles of creative thinking and common for geniuses and normal people, failed to explain why some people produce works of cultural value and other do not.

Gestalt theory. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.
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