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By William R. Uttal

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Extra resources for A Behaviorist Looks at Form Recognition

Sample text

If one takes the time to review the literature in this field it quickly becomes obvious, even at this cursory level of examination, that therehave been a number of different words with roughly the same meaning regularly substituted forform. Pattern, shape, configuration, and even that elusive-to-defineGermanism-Gestalthave been used over the years todesignate this key term. There are subtle differences, however, in the connotation or denotation of each of these words that should have, but did not, inhibited their more or less careless use assynonyms for form.

Many scholars, other than those listed here, have participated in the development of the concept of form and the definition of the term. However, these are the major historical players. We now have arrived at a point where modern times begin concerning the study of form recognition from an increasingly empirical perspective. In some ways it is sad that the philosophers are less likely to contribute tothis discussion today than are thebarefooted empiricists. The sheer abundance of the data makes it clear that the value of philosophers as organizers and systematizerswould be of great value.

On the other hand, Gestalt psychology may have been somewhat ahead of its time. The typical research paradigm they used was the critical demonstration. This methodological propensity, along with the total failure of the erroneous physiological model that the Gestaltists adhered to, led to a diminution in interest in their approach in the second half of the 20th century. One can only imagine what might have been the courseof modern psychological theory if the early Gestalt psychologists like Wertheimer, Koffka, and Kohler had had computer controlled displays with whichto work and had known some more about the actual physiology of the brain.

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