Max Wertheimer (April 15, 1880 – October 12, 1943) was an Austro-Hungarian-born psychologist who was one of the three founders of Gestalt psychology, along with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler. He is known for his book, Productive Thinking, and for conceiving the phi phenomenon as part of his work in Gestalt psychology.
Wertheimer became interested in psychology and studied under Carl Stumpf at the University of Berlin. Wertheimer then went on to obtain his PhD in 1904 under Oswald Külpe, at the University of Würzburg and then began his intellectual career teaching at the Frankfurt University. For a short time he left Frankfurt to work at the Berlin Psychological Institute, but returned in 1929 as a full professor. Wertheimer eventually ended up on the faculty of The New School in New York, a position he held until his death.
|Born||April 15, 1880|
|Died||October 12, 1943 (aged 63)|
|Alma mater||University of Prague|
|Doctoral students||Rudolf Arnheim, Erika Fromm, Kurt Lewin|
Max Wertheimer was born on April 15, 1880 in Prague, then part of the Bohemian Austria-Hungary. Max was born to Wilhelm and Rosa Wertheimer, second to his brother Walter. Wilhelm Wertheimer was a successful educator, as well as financier. Rosa Wilhelm, born Rosa Zwicker, had a rich classical education. The Wertheimers were active in the Jewish community in which they lived. The Wertheimer household was extremely intellectual, therefore Max received education from both his parents; he engaged in political and educational discussions at home, as well as taking piano and violin lessons. After he received one of Baruch Spinoza's books as a gift, he developed an interest towards philosophy. He felt that he and Spinoza shared a culture and common traits.
Max began his formal education at age five, at a private elementary school maintained by the Piarist order of the Roman Catholic Church. It was not uncommon at this time for Jewish children to receive educations from the Catholic Church at this time in central Europe. At age ten, Max graduated from the Piarist Grammar School and enrolled in the Royal Imperial New City German State High School where he could expect to obtain a degree that would qualify him for admittance to a University. Due to the diverse courses offered by the University, Max began to contemplate his future, and realized his deep fascination with philosophy. Max first started studying law at Charles University, where he also explored other fields such as philosophy, music, physiology, and psychology. After a year, Max left and enrolled in University of Berlin where he shifted his study to philosophy. At Berlin, Max was able to work in the company of notable figures such as Carl Stumpf, Friederich Schumann, Georg Elias Müller, and Erich von Hornbostel. Later on in 1903 he got his PhD from the University of Würzburg. There he completed research on the lie detector.
Max Wertheimer began his academic career at an institute in Frankfurt, later to become the University of Frankfurt. Max left Frankfurt from 1916 to 1929 to pursue a job at the Berlin Psychological Institute but returned to Frankfurt in 1929 as a full professor, where he stayed until 1933. In 1923, while teaching in Berlin, Wertheimer married Anna Caro (called Anni), a physician's daughter, with whom he had four children: Rudolf (who died in infancy, 1924), Valentin (1925-1978), Michael (born 1927) and Lise (born 1928, Lisbeth Rosa). Max and Anna Wertheimer divorced in 1942.
Wertheimer represented his country in World War I as a captain in the army. After coming back from the war he gave lectures and pursued his research on perception and gestalt in the University of Berlin until 1933. But in 1933, dramatic changes in Germany's regime encouraged or convinced Wertheimer to leave Germany; he heard Hitler's declarations on the media and he felt his Jewish roots were not going to be tolerated or accepted by the government directed by Adolf Hitler. So before Hitler rose to power, the Wertheimer family joined the other German emigres and moved to the United States. The Wertheimers' emigration was arranged through the U.S. consulate in Prague, and he and his wife and their children arrived in New York harbor on September 13, 1933. The family became citizens as well; that's why Max Wertheimer is referred to as a German-American psychologist.
Along with his move to America, Max accepted a professional position at age fifty-three in New York City at the New School for Social Research. The New School was only fourteen years-old when Max got the chance to teach various courses there. Max remained at the New School for the last decade of his life. He remained in touch with his European colleagues, many of whom had also emigrated to America. Koffka was teaching at Smith College; Köhler at Swarthmore College; and Lewin at Cornell University and the University of Iowa. Although in declining health, he continued to work on his research of problem-solving, what he preferred to call "productive thinking." He completed his only book, "Productive Thinking" on the subject in late September 1943. Max died of a heart attack just three weeks after the completion of his book at his home in New Rochelle, New York. Wertheimer is interred in Beechwoods Cemetery, also in New Rochelle. Max is father of Michael Wertheimer, a successful psychologist.
Max Wertheimer began the formal founding of Gestalt psychology in 1910 as he began experiments on the phi phenomenon. He published these experiments in a paper titled "Experimental Studies on the Perception of Movement". The phi phenomenon is apparent movement caused by alternating light positions. Wertheimer illustrated this phenomenon on an apparatus he built that utilized two discrete lights on different locations. Although the lights are stationary, flashing the lights at succeeding time intervals causes the retina to perceive the light as moving. Wertheimer worked with partners Koffka and Köhler to collect data which ultimately led to their launch of the Gestalt movement. Their findings further demonstrated that the quality of the whole is different from the sum of the parts. The explanation of the phi phenomena was that movement is perceived because the eye itself moves in response to the successive flashes of light. The movement an observer experiences is based on feedback from the moving eye. The researchers maintained that human perception is prone to such illusions and they speculated that it is more meaningful to connect close-together events than to keep them artificially separate.
As a Gestalt theorist, Max Wertheimer was interested in perception, but additionally interested in thought. Max published his ideas in his book "Productive Thinking" (1945) before his death in 1943. Wertheimer was interested in making a distinction between reproductive thinking and productive thinking. Reproductive thinking is associated with repetition, conditioning, habits or familiar intellectual territory. Productive thinking is the product of new ideas and breakthroughs. Productive thinking is insight-based reasoning. Wertheimer argued that only insightful reasoning could bring true understanding of conceptual problems and relationships. Wertheimer encouraged training in traditional logic. He believed traditional logic stimulated thinking. However, he believed that logic alone did not give rise to productive thinking. He believed creativity was also crucial to engage in positive thinking. In Productive Thinking, similar to his lectures, Wertheimer used concrete examples to illustrate his principles. Wertheimer used these illustrations to demonstrate the transition from S1, a state where nothing really seems to make sense, to S2, where everything seems clear and the concept grasped. He points out in "Productive Thinking" that solving a problem by blind obedience to rules prevents real understanding of the problems. He believes that this blind obedience forestalls a person from uncovering the solution. Max Wertheimer's ideas of productive thinking are of continuing relevance in modern ideas of schemas, plans, and knowledge structures today.
Wertheimer developed his Gestalt theory in 1910 while he was on board a train from Vienna for a vacation in Germany's Rhineland. Gestalt, in the closest English definition of the term, is translated potentially as configuration, form, holistic, structure, and pattern. According to Gestalt psychology, perception is a whole. In this sense, perception can shape vision and the other senses. In addition, the theory also maintained that the whole is not only greater than its components but also different from those components. By 1920, Wertheimer added the position that the properties of any parts are governed by the structural laws of the whole. Later efforts to discover such laws had limited success. Wertheimer's work on gestalt psychology with his colleagues at The New School was seen as an opposition and alternative to the behavioral approach to psychology.
Wertheimer started the cognitive school of psychology. His ideas also challenged structuralism and atomism, in that he and other gestalt psychologists were more concerned about the whole rather than small structures or fragments of an object.
Abraham S. Luchins (March 8, 1914 – December 27, 2005) was one of the most important American Gestalt Psychologists and a pioneer of group psychotherapy. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and died in Albany.Beechwoods Cemetery (New Rochelle, New York)
Beechwoods Cemetery is a non-denominational cemetery located in New Rochelle, New York. The cemetery was incorporated in 1854.Berlin School of experimental psychology
The Berlin School of Experimental Psychology was headed by Carl Stumpf (a pupil of Franz Brentano and Hermann Lotze), a professor at the University of Berlin, where he founded the Berlin Laboratory of Experimental Psychology in 1893.
Among his pupils were Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Lewin.
Only after Köhler took over the direction of the psychology institute in 1922 did the Berlin School effectively become a school for Gestalt psychology.Beta movement
Beta movement is an optical illusion, first described by Max Wertheimer in 1912, whereby a series of static images on a screen creates the illusion of a smoothly flowing scene. This occurs when the frame rate is greater than 10 to 12 separate images per second. The illusion of motion caused by animation is thought to rely on beta movement and the phi phenomenon, but the exact causes are still unclear. The static images do not physically change but give the appearance of motion because of being rapidly changed faster than the eye can see.
This optical illusion is caused by the fact that the human optic nerve responds to changes in light at about 10 cycles per second, so changes about double of this are registered as motion instead of being separate distinct images.Catherine Stern
Catherine Brieger Stern (1894–1973) was a German psychologist and educator. She developed sets of mathematical manipulatives similar to Cuisenaire rods for children to use in building up their number sense and knowledge of arithmetic. Her book, Children Discover Arithmetic (1949) was used by others to work on the problems that children face when learning arithmetic.In 1938, she emigrated to the United States. From 1940 to 1943, she was research assistant to Max Wertheimer at the New School for Social Research.Erika Fromm
Erika Fromm (née Oppenheimer, December 23, 1909 – May 26, 2003) was a German-American psychologist and co-founder of hypnoanalysis.Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy
Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy is a method of psychotherapy based strictly on Gestalt psychology. Its origins go back to the 1920s when Gestalt psychology founder Max Wertheimer, Kurt Lewin and their colleagues and students started to apply the holistic and systems theoretical Gestalt psychology concepts in the field of psychopathology and clinical psychology Many developments in psychotherapy in the following decades drew from these early beginnings, like e.g. group psychoanalysis (S. Foulkes), Gestalt therapy (Laura Perls, Fritz Perls, Goodman, and others), or Katathym-imaginative Psychotherapy (Hanscarl Leuner). In Europe Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy in its own right has been initiated and formulated on this basis by the German Gestalt psychologist and psychotherapist Hans-Jürgen P. Walter and his colleagues in Germany and Austria. Walter, a student of Gestalt psychologist Friedrich Hoeth, was influenced to form the core of his theoretical concept on the basis of the work of Gestalt theorists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka, Kurt Lewin, and Wolfgang Metzger. Walter’s first publication on Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy came out in 1977 Gestalttheorie und Psychotherapie (Gestalt Theory and Psychotherapy), which is now on its third edition (1994). The majority of the extensive literature on Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy which has been published in the decades since then is in the German language. However, Walter's articles Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Gestalt-Theoretical Psychotherapy and What do Gestalt therapy and Gestalt theory have to do with each other? have been published also in English, as well as Gerhard Stemberger's more recent introductory article Diagnostics in Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy.
Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy in this form has gained popularity predominately in German speaking countries. It is officially approved by the Austrian government as a scientific psychotherapy method under the Austrian Psychotherapy Act.
One of the most striking characteristics of Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy is the key role of the epistemological grounding position of Gestalt theory (critical realism) and its applicability to the fundamental, theoretical, and practical problems in psychotherapy. In Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy this is closely bound up with the basic methodological approach (holistic, phenomenological, experimental) of Gestalt theory, its system theoretical approach, and its specific psychophysical and psychological approach.
Gerhard Stemberger’s Diagnostics in Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy, provides insight into the concept and process of Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy. The Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy therapeutic process is a relationship between two individuals in which both the therapist and client develop an egalitarian attitude. An egalitarian attitude is the concept that everyone is equal. The diagnostic process and the therapeutic process are inseparable to Gestalt theoretical psychotherapists. The therapist is responsible for supporting the client in discovering their specific and individual feelings and problems. Gestalt theoretical psychotherapists believe that an individual cannot be forced into doing things that are against the individual’s nature; therefore it is crucial for the therapist to adapt diagnostic exploration to the individual’s capabilities. The therapeutic process requires no strict or set schedule, and the speed of the process varies for each individual. “Force-field analysis”, a concept from Kurt Lewin, is a phenomenological procedure in which the therapist and client look for opportunities to explore specific attributes of the client’s life space, their driving forces, and barriers. This can occur in therapy through dialogue, allowing the client to experience their feelings through speaking. The anthropological model in Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy is the belief that the therapist should not only focus on ‘inner components’ of the client, but also focus on the interaction between the client and their environment that effect their experience and behavior.Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy is related to but different from Fritz Perls' Gestalt therapy in its theoretical foundation. Mary Henle has pointed out the differences between Gestalt theory in its original sense and the Perls'ian understanding of Gestalt.
With her analysis however, she restricts herself explicitly to only three of Perls' books from 1969 and 1972, leaving out Perls' earlier work, and Gestalt therapy in general as a psychotherapy method.
It must also be mentioned that Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy adopts techniques from Gestalt therapy as Walter points out.Interstimulus interval
The interstimulus interval (often abbreviated as ISI) is the temporal interval between the offset of one stimulus to the onset of another. For instance, Max Wertheimer did experiments with two stationary, flashing lights that at some interstimulus intervals appeared to the subject as moving instead of stationary. In these experiments, the interstimulus interval is simply the time between the two flashes. The ISI plays a large role in the phi phenomenon (Wertheimer) since the illusion of motion is directly due to the length of the interval between stimuli. When the ISI is shorter, for example between two flashing lines alternating back and forth, we perceive the change in stimuli to be movement. Wertheimer discovered that the space between the two lines is filled in by our brains and that the faster the lines alternate, the more likely we are to perceive it as one line moving back and forth. When the stimuli move fast enough, this creates the illusion of a moving picture like a movie or cartoon. Phi phenomenon is very similar to beta movement.As it applies to classical conditioning, the term interstimulus interval is used to represent the gap of time between the start of the neutral or conditioned stimulus and the start of the unconditioned stimulus. An example would be the case of Pavlov's dog, where the time between the unconditioned stimulus, the food, and the conditioned stimulus, the bell, is considered the ISI. More particularly, ISI is often used in eyeblink conditioning (a widely studied type of classical conditioning involving puffs of air blown into the subject's eyes) where the ISI can effect learning based on the size of the time gap. What is of interest in this particular type of classical conditioning is that when the subject is conditioned to blink after the conditioned stimulus (tone), the blink will take place within the time period between the tone and the air puff, making the subject's eyes close before the puff can reach the eyes, protecting them from the air.The timing between the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus is important. There are two types of approaches for eye blink conditioning when it comes to timing between the stimuli. The first is called delay conditioning, which is when the conditioned stimulus (tone) starts, then continues until the unconditioned stimulus (air puff) is released after a delay, then they both suspend at the same time. The other is called trace conditioning, where the conditioned stimulus (tone) is shorter and stops before the unconditioned stimulus (air puff) begins, leaving a gap between the two stimuli. This type of conditioning forces the subject, in this particular example, a bunny, to remember to link the conditioned stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus.The distinction between the two types of conditioning is of importance because the difference in the interstimulus interval (ISI) can have major effects on learning. For example, it has been shown that the length of the ISI, as well as the variability, changes habituation in subjects. When ISI is short and constant, habituation will happen more rapidly. The changes in the gap of time can be minuscule, from tens of milliseconds to several seconds long, and the effects it will have will still be important. Sensory and motor tasks are among the elements that can be enhanced or hindered based on timing, like speech processing, which can be influenced by "the ability to discriminate the interval and duration of sounds."Karl Duncker
Karl Duncker (2 February 1903, in Leipzig – 23 February 1940) was a Gestalt psychologist. He attended Friedrich-Wilhelms-University from 1923 to 1923, and spent 1925–1926 at Clark University in Worcester, MA as a visiting professor, where he received a masters in arts degree.
Until 1935 he was a student and assistant of the founders of Gestalt psychology in Berlin: Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka.
In 1935, exiled by the Nazis, he got an assistantship in Cambridge with Frederic Charles Bartlett and later immigrated to the US, where he was again an assistant of Wolfgang Köhler’s at Swarthmore College. He committed suicide in 1940 at 37 years of age. He had been suffering from depression for some time and had received professional treatment.
His younger brother Wolfgang Duncker (1909-1942), a communist in exile in Moscow, was arrested in 1938 during the Great Purges and died in the Gulag. Their parents were the well-known socialist and later communist propagandists Hermann and Käte Duncker.Karlshorst
Karlshorst (, German: [karlshɔst] (listen); locally pronounced [ka:ltshɔst]; literally meaning Karl's nest) is a locality in the borough of Lichtenberg in Berlin. Located there are a harness racing track and the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin (HTW), the largest University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, and the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.Kurt Koffka
Kurt Koffka (March 18, 1886 – November 22, 1941) was a German psychologist. He was born and educated in Berlin. Along with Max Wertheimer and his close associates Wolfgang Kohler they established Gestalt psychology. Koffka’s interests were wide-ranging, and they included: perception, hearing impairments in brain-damaged patients, interpretation, learning, and the extension of Gestalt theory to developmental psychology.Phi phenomenon
The term phi phenomenon is used in a narrow sense for an apparent motion that is observed, if two adjacent optical stimuli are presented alternating with relative high frequency. In contrast to beta movement, seen at lower frequencies, no movement of the presented objects themselves is observed, but a diffuse, amorphous shadowlike something seems to jump in front of the objects and occludes them temporary. This shadow seems to have nearly the color of the background. This form of apparent movement was first described by Max Wertheimer in his habilitation thesis published 1912.In a broader sense, particularly if the plural form phi phenomena is used, it applies also to all apparent movements that can be seen, if two adjacent optical stimuli are presented alternating. This includes especially the beta movement, which is important for motion illusion in cinema and animation. Actually Wertheimer applied the term “φ-movement” to all apparent movements described in his thesis as he introduced the term in 1912. But in recent years, mainly since the beginning of the 21st century, the term is used mainly for the shadowlike, objectless movement. For clarification also the term “pure phi” is used for the latter.Principles of grouping
The principles of grouping (or Gestalt laws of grouping) are a set of principles in psychology, first proposed by Gestalt psychologists to account for the observation that humans naturally perceive objects as organized patterns and objects, a principle known as Prägnanz. Gestalt psychologists argued that these principles exist because the mind has an innate disposition to perceive patterns in the stimulus based on certain rules. These principles are organized into five categories: Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, and Connectedness.Irvin Rock and Steve Palmer, who are acknowledged as having built upon the work of Max Wertheimer and others and to have identified additional grouping principles, note that Wertheimer's laws have come to be called the "Gestalt laws of grouping" but state that "perhaps a more appropriate description" is "principles of grouping."Rock and Palmer helped to further Wertheimer's research to explain human perception of groups of objects and how we perceive parts of objects and form whole objects on the basis of these.Psychological Research
Psychological Research (full title: Psychological Research: An International Journal of Perception, Attention, Memory, and Action) is a bimonthly peer-reviewed psychology journal published by Springer Science+Business Media. It was established in 1921 as Psychologische Forschung, obtaining its current name in 1974. The co-founders of the journal were Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Goldstein, and Hans Walter Gruhle. The journal went on to become the primary organ of the gestalt psychology movement. The current editor-in-chief is Bernhard Hommel (Leiden University). According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal has a 2015 impact factor of 2.681.Rudolf Arnheim
Rudolf Arnheim (July 15, 1904 – June 9, 2007) was a German-born author, art and film theorist, and perceptual psychologist. He learned Gestalt psychology from studying under Max Wertheimer and Wolfgang Köhler at the University of Berlin and applied it to art. His magnum opus was his book Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (1954). Other major books by Arnheim have included Visual Thinking (1969), and The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts (1982). Art and Visual Perception was revised, enlarged and published as a new version in 1974, and it has been translated into fourteen languages. He lived in Germany, Italy, England, and America where he taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan. He has greatly influenced art history and psychology in America.In Art and Visual Perception, Arnheim tries to use science to better understand art. In his later book Visual Thinking (1969), Arnheim critiques the assumption that language goes before perception. For Arnheim, the only access to reality we have is through our senses. Arnheim also argues that perception is strongly identified with thinking, and that artistic expression is another way of reasoning. In The Power of the Center, Arnheim addresses the interaction of art and architecture on concentric and grid spatial patterns. He argues that form and content are indivisible, and that the patterns created by artists reveal the nature of human experience.The New School for Social Research
The New School for Social Research (NSSR) is an educational institution that is part of The New School in New York City, USA. The university was founded in 1919 as a home for progressive thinkers. The New School for Social Research explores and promotes global peace and justice as more than theoretical ideals. The New School for Social Research enrolls more than 1,000 students from all regions of the United States and from more than 70 countries.Visual language
The visual language is a system of communication using visual elements. Speech as a means of communication cannot strictly be separated from the whole of human communicative activity which includes the visual and the term 'language' in relation to vision is an extension of its use to describe the perception, comprehension and production of visible signs.Wertheimer
Wertheimer is an Ashkenazi Jewish surname:
People with this surname include:
Akiba Israel Wertheimer (1778-1835), first Chief Rabbi of Altona and Schleswig-Holstein
Alain and Gérard Wertheimer, French Jewish billionaire owners of Chanel
Wertheimer et Frère, partnership of the two brothers
Arjeh Yehuda Wertheimer (1862-1937), known as Constantin Brunner, German-Jewish philosopher
Egon Ranshofen-Wertheimer (1894-1957), Austrian and German diplomat, journalist, jurist and political scientist
Esther Wertheimer (born 1926), Polish architect
François Wertheimer (born 1947), French singer
Fred Wertheimer (born 1939), American political activist
Gustav Wertheimer (1847-1904), Austrian artist
Haim Ernst Wertheimer (1893-1978), German-born Israeli biochemist
Jack Wertheimer, professor of American Jewish history
Jacques Wertheimer (1911-1996), father of Pierre
Linda Wertheimer (born 1943), American broadcast journalist for National Public Radio
Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), Prague-born Gestalt psychologist
Michael Wertheimer (born 1927), psychologist, son of Max Wertheimer
Michael Wertheimer (born 1957), American cryptologic mathematician
Pierre Wertheimer (1888-1965), French businessman, co-founder of Chanel
Rabbi Samson Wertheimer (1658-1724), German-Hungarian and Austrian rabbi, philanthropist
Rabbi Solomon Aaron Wertheimer (1866-1935)
Stef Wertheimer (born 1926), Israeli industrialist
Yair Wertheimer (born 1955), Israeli former tennis playerWolfgang Köhler
Wolfgang Köhler (21 January 1887 – 11 June 1967) was a German psychologist and phenomenologist who, like Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka, contributed to the creation of Gestalt psychology.
During the Nazi regime in Germany, he protested against the dismissal of Jewish professors from universities, as well as the requirement that professors give a Nazi salute at the beginning of their classes. In 1935 he left the country for the United States, where Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania offered him a professorship. He taught with its faculty for 20 years, and did continuing research. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Köhler as the 50th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.