Law of Similarity

Gestalt psychology or gestaltism ( “shape, form”) is a theory of mind of the Berlin School. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws of our ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world. The central principle of gestalt psychology is that the mind forms a global whole with self-organizing tendencies. This principle maintains that when the human mind (perceptual system) forms a percept or gestalt, the whole has a reality of its own, independent of the parts. The original famous phrase of Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “The whole is other than the sum of the parts” is often incorrectly translated as “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and thus used when explaining gestalt theory, and further incorrectly applied to systems theory. Koffka did not like the translation. He firmly corrected students who substituted “greater” for “other”, “This is not a principle of addition” he said.Heider, F. 1977. Cited in Dewey, R.A. 2007. Psychology: An introduction: Chapter four – The Whole is Other than the Sum of the Parts. [online]. Available from: [Accessed:4/12/2014] The whole has an independent existence. In the domain of perception, Gestalt psychologists stipulate that perceptions are the products of complex interactions among various stimuli. Contrary to the behaviorist approach to understanding the elements of cognitive processes, gestalt psychologists sought to understand their organization (Carlson and Heth, 2010). The gestalt effect is the capability of our brain to generate whole forms, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of global figures instead of just collections of simpler and unrelated elements (points, lines, curves…). In psychology, gestaltism is often opposed to structuralism. Gestalt theory allows for the breakup of elements from the whole situation into what it really is.