This research paper presents the Field theory of psychology. Gestalt psychology and field theory are defined. Discussion includes development of both theories with contributions, influences, and criticisms of Kohler and Lewin.
Gestalt psychology was a reaction against structuralism and behaviorism. Kohler and Koffka were leading Gestaltists who stated that experience and behavior cannot be analyzed into elements of consciousness and they cannot be broken down to stimulus-response units. Gestaltists believed that behavior and experience are wholes that are unanalyzable, and certain relationships between the whole and its parts can be understood. Gestalt experiments included perception, learning, and thinking (Sargent & Stafford, 1965, p. 4).
Gestalt psychologists viewed sensory elements as appearing after introspection. Real data of experience were organized and extended wholes and specific elements are not encountered in consciousness or behavior. Sensory data is found in an orderly arrangement such that a young child could respond without previous learning. Adults are viewed as reacting to the pattern or total organization of the objects around them; these Gestalten or configurations are the mental elements. Gestalt psychology is the study of this organization of unitary experiences, how they exist and change, and factors involved (Garrett, 1951, pp. 63-64).
The term field theory now refers to Lewin's work which is largely Gestalt in orientation; it goes beyond Gestaltism and centers on needs and personality with social influences. Field theory in psychology stems from field theory in physics; it a psychological field that Lewin called life space. This life space encompasses the past, present, and future events that influence an individual. Each of these events can determine a behavior in a given situation. The life space includes the individual's needs interacting with the psychological environment. Life sp...