Gestalt psychologists found perception to be heavily influenced by the context or configuration of the perceived elements. The word Gestalt can be translated from the German approximately as "configuration." The parts often derive their nature and purpose from the whole and cannot be understood apart from it. Moreover, a straightforwardsummation process of individual elements cannot account for the whole. Activities within the total field of the whole govern the perceptual processes.
The approach of Gestalt psychology has been extended to research in areas as diverse as thinking, memory, and the nature of aesthetics. Topics in social psychology have also been studied from the structuralist Gestalt viewpoint, as in Kurt Lewin's work on group dynamics. It is in the area of perception, however, that Gestalt psychology has had its greatest influence.
In addition, several contemporary psychotherapies are termed Gestalt. These are constructed along lines similar to Gestalt psychology's approach to perception. Human beings respond holistically to experience; according to Gestalt therapists, any separation of mind and body is artificial. Accurate perception of one's own needs and of the world is vital in order to balance one's experience and achieve "good Gestalten." Movement away from awareness breaks the holistic response, or Gestalt. Gestalt therapists attempt to restore an individual's natural, harmonic balance by heightening awareness. The emphasis is on present experience, rather than on recollections of infancy and early childhood as in psychoanalysis. Direct confrontation with one's fears is encouraged.
6. Cognition psychology
Cognition, act or process of knowing. Cognition includes attention, perception, memory, reasoning, judgment, imagining, thinking, and speech. Attempts to explain the way in which cognition works are as old as philosophy itself; the term, in fact, comes from the writings of Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of psychology as a discipline separate from philosophy, cognition has been investigated from several viewpoints.
An entire field-cognitive psychology-has arisen since the 1950s. It studies cognition mainly from the standpoint of information handling. Parallels are stressed between the functions of the human brain and the computer concepts such as the coding, storing, retrieving, and buffering of information. The actual physiology of cognition is of little interest to cognitive psychologists, but their theoretical models of cognition have deepened understanding of memory, psycholinguistics, and the development of intelligence.
Social psychologists since the mid-1960s have written extensively on the topic of cognitive consistency-that is, the tendency of a person's beliefs and actions to be logically consistent with one another. When cognitive dissonance, or the lack of such consistency, arises, the person unconsciously seeks to restore consistency by changing his or her behavior, beliefs, or perceptions. The manner in which a particular individual classifies cognitions in order to impose order has been termed cognitive style.
7. Tests and Measurements
Many fields of psychology use tests and measurement devices. The best-known psychological tool is intelligence testing. Since the early 1900s psychologists have been measuring intelligence-or, more accurately, the ability to succeed in schoolwork. Such tests have proved useful in classifying students, assigning people to training programs, and predicting success in many kinds of schooling. Special tests have been developed to predict success in different occupations and to assess how much knowledge people have about different kinds of specialties. In addition, psychologists have constructed tests for measuring aspects of personality, interests, and attitudes. Thousands of tests have been devised for measuring different human traits.
A key problem in test construction, however, is the development of a criterion-that is, some standard to which the test is to be related. For intelligence tests, for example, the usual criterion has been success in school, but intelligence tests have frequently been attacked on the basis of cultural bias (that is, the test results may reflect a child's background as much as it does learning ability). For vocational-interest tests, the standard generally has been persistence in an occupation. One general difficulty with personality tests is the lack of agreement among psychologists as to what standards should be used. Many criteria have been proposed, but most are only indirectly related to the aspect of personality that is being measured.
Very sophisticated statistical models have been developed for tests, and a detailed technology underlies most successful testing. Many psychologists have become adept at constructing testing devices for special purposes and at devising measurements, once agreement is reached as to what should be measured.
Types of Tests
Currently, a wide range of testing procedures is used in the U.S. and elsewhere. Each type of procedure is designed to carry out specific functions.
Achievement Tests . These tests are designed to assess current performance in an academic area. Because achievement is viewed as an indicator of previous learning, it is often used to predict future academic success. An achievement test administered in a public school setting would typically include separate measures of vocabulary, language skills and reading comprehension, arithmetic computation and problem solving, science, and social studies. Individual achievement is determined by comparison of results with average scores derived from large representative national or local samples. Scores may be expressed in terms of "grade-level equivalents"; for example, an advanced third-grade pupil may be reading on a level equivalent to that of the average fourth-grade student.
Aptitude Tests. These tests predict future performance in an area in which the individual is not currently trained. Schools, businesses, and government agencies often use aptitude tests when assigning individuals to specific positions. Vocational guidance counseling may involve aptitude testing to help clarify individual career goals. If a person's score is similar to scores of others already working in a given occupation, likelihood of success in that field is