Gestalt recognition is impossible for computers
Gestalt recognition involves the immediate comprehension of a pattern as a unified whole. Computers can only sequentially process the components of a pattern; they can't recognize Gestalt wholes.

Postulates of Gestalt Psychology

1) The whole is different from the sum of its parts.

2) The whole is studied in terms of its form or organisation. A Gestalt—which in German means pattern or shape—is best understood as a kind of perceptual configuration.

3) Laws of grouping describe the general patterns of organisation obeyed by perceptual wholes. Patterns include:

  • No grouping—elements are not grouped together;

  • Proximity—elements that are closer to one another are grouped together;

  • Similarity—elements that are more similar to one another are grouped together;

  • Closure—elements that form closed units are grouped together;

  • Good continuation—elements forming continuous lines or curves are grouped togeteher;

  • Common region—elements located in the same perceived region tend to be grouped together;

  • Connectedness—elements forming a uniform connected region are grouped together.

4) Frames of reference determine how a set of stimuli will be grouped into a perceptual whole.

5) A Gestalt pattern can be perceived either as an independent object (figure), or as the surface or background behind the object (ground). Certain laws determine whether a region will be seen as a figure or a ground.

6) According to the principle of Pragnantz, or closure, ambiguous stimuli are interpreted in the most simple, regular, and symmetric patterns possible, based on available information.

7) Psychological systems that reduce thinking to discrete operations on data, such a structuralism, behaviourism, and AI, are inadequate, because they fail to account for Gestalt properties of perception.


  • Presented here is primarily the Gestalt theory of perception. Applications of Gestalt theory to learning, motivation, education, and social psychology have been excluded.
  • Authors on this map whose work draws on Gestalt principles include: Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus, Edwin Boring, Rudolf Anaheim.
  • Other notable Gestaltists include: Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Khler, Kurt Lewin, Max Wertheimer, and Edgar Rubin.
  • Map 3 contains a variety of additional Gestalt-inspired objections to symbol systems.
Artificial Intelligence Â»Artificial Intelligence
Can computers think? [1] Â»Can computers think? [1]
No: computers can't understand images [5b] Â»No: computers can't understand images [5b]
Gestalt recognition is impossible for computers
Computers can’t process images from the top down Â»Computers can’t process images from the top down
Gestalt consistent with computer inference Â»Gestalt consistent with computer inference
Gestalt properties implemented recursively Â»Gestalt properties implemented recursively
Hubert Dreyfus Â»Hubert Dreyfus
+Comments (0)
+Citations (0)