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The Expressive Self: Gestalt Psychology, Art and Personality.

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1 The Expressive Self: Gestalt Psychology, Art and Personality

2 Aesthetics in the 18 th century Aesthetics: study of perception, sensory experience as opposed to conceptual thought. About human perception of artistic form: Edmund Burke, Baumgarten, Kant, Shaftesbury Eventually also came to encompass notion of the beautiful

3 Gustav Fechner (1801-1887) 1860: Elements of Psychophysics 1876: Vorschule der Aesthetik Weber/Fechner’s Law: intensity of a sensation increases as the log of the stimulus (S = k log R) Conducted Studies on the Golden Ratio/Golden Section: Ratio of AC to CB is the same as AC to AB (1: 1.618)

4 Golden Rectangle AGFD The ratio of the length to the width should be close to the Golden Ratio (approximately 1.618). Ratio of AG/AD = DC/CF

5 Within this one large Golden Rectangle there are six other Golden Rectangles


7 Robert Vischer (1873) “Über das optische Formgefühl” (On the Optical Sense of Form) Einfühlung (“feeling into”) became popular in German psychological aesthetics beginning in the 1870s History of “ Empathy ” as “Einfühlung” German Psychological Aesthetics

8 From: Dekorative Kunst: Illustrierte Zeitschrift fuer Angewandte Kunst, Band 1, (Munich: H.Bruckman & Paris, J. Meier-Graefe, 1898) p. 76

9 Einfühlung as “empathy” “Not only do I see gravity and modesty and pride and courtesy and stateliness, but I feel or act them in the mind’s muscles. This is, I suppose, a simple case of empathy, if we may coin that term as a rendering of Einfühlung” (1909; 21). Edward Bradford Titchener (1867-1927)

10 James Ward (1843-1925) Philosopher and Psychologist, Professor of Philosophy and Logic University of Cambridge

11 “With an image of a bunch of grapes the observer spoke of “a cool, juicy feeling all over:” with a parrot, of “a feeling of smoothness and softness all over me: not tactual [i.e. not cutaneous];” with a fish, of “cool, pleasant sensations all up my arms; slippery feeling in my throat; coolness in my eyes. The object spreads all over me and I over it; it is not referred to me but I belong to it.” From: Titchener’s Laboratory, Cornell University Cheves Perky “An Experimental Study of Imagination” American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul. 1910), 448

12 June Etta Downey (1875-1932) Studied at University Chicago Professor of Philosophy Head of Philosophy/Psych. Dept At University of Wyoming Wrote Creative Imagination (1929) Herbert Sydney Langfeld (1879-1959) Studied with Stumpf, University of Berlin Professor, Harvard 1910 -1924 Head of Psychology Laboratory, Princeton The Aesthetic Attitude (1920)

13 From Keat’s Hyperion: “Upon the sodden ground His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead, Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were closed; While his bowed head seem’d list’ning to the Earth, His ancient mother, for some comfort yet.”

14 Subject D: “Perfectly clear-cut visual image of the old man in the posture described. Tactual and kinaesthetic feeling of the sodden ground. Feeling of weight and relaxation in right hand. Kinaesthetic feeling of bowed head and of closed yes. Auditory attention, with strain in ear” Subject 2 ”Put self into the old man and slight tendency to get outside and see old man.” (CI, 188). Subject 3 “As Observer I am north-east of visualized self and of old man. Visual self about one hundred feet off, looking at old man who is twenty feet farther off. No imitation of old man’s posture.” Downey, 1912, p. 308

15 Wheeled clouds, which as they roll Over the grass, and flowers, and waves, wake sounds, Sweet as a singing rain of silver dew.” Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet Subject M: “Movement in chest; spreading forward of hands in space. Feet not on ground. Become the cloud; feel of the cloud. The cloud, if conscious, would feel thus.” ( Downey, CI, 189 )

16 “There are hours when I go out from myself and live in a plant, when I feel myself as the grass, as bird, as tree-top, clouds—hours when I run, fly, swim, when I unfold myself in the sun, when I sleep under leaves, when I float with the larks or creep with the lizards, when I shine in the stars and fire-flies, when, in short, I live in every object which affords an extension of my existence.” George Sand, as quoted in Downey, Creative Imagination, 1929

17 Entombment, by Raphael (Villa Borghese, Rome) Pietà, Perugino (Academy, Florence)

18 The Dream of St. Ursula, Vittorio Carpaccio, 1495 Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

19 Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Woman (Berlin)

20 Kurt Koffka Max Wertheimer Wolfgang Köhler Kurt Lewin GESTALT PSYCHOLOGISTS

21 Examples of the Phi Phenomenon Max Wertheimer, 1912 “Gestalt” = Form, Configuration

22 Figure-Ground Gestalt Images

23 Study of the Regular Division of the Plane with Horsemen, By Dutch artist M.C. Escher (1898-1972)

24 Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007) Gestalt Psychologist of Art Sarah Lawrence 1943-1968 Harvard Dept. of Visual and Environ. Studies 1968-1974 Art and Visual Perception (1954) Towards a Psychology of Art (1966) Visual Thinking (1969)

25 But if I sit in front of a fireplace and watch the flames, I do not normally register certain shades of red, various degrees of brightness, geometrically defined shapes moving at such and such a speed. I see the graceful play of aggressive tongues, flexible striving, lively color. The face of a person is more readily perceived and remembered as being alert, tense, concentrated rather than being triangularly shaped, having slanted eyebrows, straight lips, and so on. (Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception, 1954, 430)

26 Herman Rorschach 1884-1922 Determinants “Experiencing Types”

27 Common response: bat, butterfly or moth

28 Common response—two humans

29 Common animal

30 Common response—blue crab, lobster, spider

31 Rorschach Testing, c.1930


33 The Psychological Corporation 1921 J. McKeen Cattell, President Approximately 20 psychologists as directors. Guaranteed training and standards of its members (compiled a “black list of charlatans and ignoramuses” to be avoided). Aims: construct standardized tests; vocational guidance; “people-sorting tests;” job analysis; efficiency engineering; research for business concerns; research on conduct and control. Source: J. McKeen Cattell, “The Psychological Corporation” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol.110), Psychology in Business (Nov. 1923) 165-171

34 Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) Henry Murray and Christina Morgan devised it in 1935. Evoke unconscious fantasies Freudian bent to the interpretation Subjects offered their own interpretations of ambiguous social situations Subjects would project their own complexes onto images

35 From TAT


37 Myers-Briggs Personality Test derived from Carl Jung’s 1921 Pychological Types

38 Check out the website: This test ends up 16 different types

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