FIELD THEORY IN MENTAL DEFICIENCY
Herman H. Spitz
In this chapter an attempt will be made to apply some aspects of certain field theoretical (gestalt) concepts to the understanding of mental deficiency. In order to do this, an operational definition of mental deficiency (or mental retardation, terms which will be used interchangeably) will be given, followed by a short summary of the general frame of reference of field theory. Then, after a limited review of this theory as previously applied to mental retardation, a series of recent, physiologically oriented gestalt studies will be discussed in detail. The implications of these more recent studies will be presented in the form of testable postulates. Finally, some limitations and advantages of this approach will be suggested.
Without getting too involved in the controversy over what mental deficiency really is, some definition must be given which can be of use in our investigations. If an experiment is to be reproducible, not only the parameters of the experimental situation must be specified but also the universe from which our subjects (Ss) are drawn.
There is nothing sacred about the standardized intelligence tests, although they have been shown to correlate with school achievement. There are probably better ways of measuring the capacity for intelligent behavior. Perhaps problem-solving ability and speed of learning new material will be weighted more heavily on future tests. But despite its limitations, the IQ measurement has proved invaluable in research. The IQ has sufficient validity, and it is the most objective and readily communicated measure of intelligent