Gestalt theory

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A theory of perception and social understanding that emphasizes the degree to which individuals understand phenomena as wholes, greater than the sum of their individual parts. ‘Gestaltists argue for positive change as a process of mutual and personal discovery’ (Hobson (2008) Geog. Compass 2, 1). Gestalt is the perception of a pattern or structure as a whole: Barnes (2001) PHG25, 4 defines a Gestalt shift as a change marked by abrupt disjunctions rather than inevitable progress, thus resembling, or equating to, a paradigm shift. Swyngedouw (in R. Lee and J. Wills, eds. 1997), refers to the gestalt of scale—geographical configurations as a set of interacting and nested scales; ‘nineteenth-century middleclass women altered the prevailing Gestalt of scale by altering the structures and practices of social reproduction and consumption’ (Marston (2000) PHG24, 2).

Subjects: Psychology.

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