Perceptual Organization

Perceptual Organization

Perceptual Organization

Perceptual Organization

Excerpt

Perceptual organization has been synonymous with Gestalt psychology, and Gestalt psychology has fallen into disrepute. In the heyday of Behaviorism, the few cognitive psychologists of the time pursued Gestalt phenomena. But today, Cognitive Psychology is married to Information Processing. (Some would say that it was a marriage of convenience.) After the wedding, Cognitive Psychology has come to look like a theoretically wrinkled Behaviorism; very few of the mainstream topics of Cognitive Psychology make explicit contact with Gestalt phenomena. In the background, Cognition's first love -- Gestalt -- is pining to regain favor.

The cognitive psychologists' desire for a phenomenological and intellectual interaction with Gestalt psychology did not manifest itself in their publications, but it did surface often enough at the Psychonomic Society meeting in 1976 for us to remark upon it in one of our conversations. We also noticed that in their talks, our colleagues mentioned Gestalt as some might praise a novel like Lolita: -- with faint embarrassment, brought on by concern that one's audience might think one enjoyed it for the wrong reasons.

This book, then, is the product of our curiosity about the current status of ideas first proposed by Gestalt psychologists. For two days in November 1977, we held an exhilarating symposium, supported by Larry Erlbaum (to whom we and all the participants are ever so grateful), that was attended by some 20 people, not all of whom are represented in this volume. At the end of our symposium it was agreed that we would try, in our contributions to this volume, to convey the speculative and metatheoretical ground of our research in addition to the solid data and carefully wrought theories that are the figure of our research.

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