Gestalt Theory

Gestalt Learning Theory


Gestalt is a theory about how our brain naturally groups and separates the things we see, which affects how we perceive them. The brain instinctively interprets and organizes this information in patterns, in a way that makes it easier for us to understand (Rosli & Cabrera, 2015).
There are several laws, or principles, to the Gestalt theory:
Law of Similarity: Objects are automatically grouped together based on similar characteristics. (Dumitru & Joergensen, 2016)
Law of Prägnanz: Objects are perceived in their simplest forms.
Law of Proximity: Objects that appear close together, are grouped together.
Law of Continuity: Lines are perceived as following the smoothest course or path of least resistance.
Law of Closure: The brain closes gaps to see grouped objects as a whole. It fills in information to complete an image.

Why use Gestalt?

-Students can use Gestalt to break down new information into familiar parts to better understand curriculum
-Gestalt cues improve the performance of the visual working memory (Gao, Gao, Tang, Shui, & Shen, 2016).
-Gestalt theory can be used when creating classroom webpages to keep everything organized in a way that is natural to the brain (Möller, Brezing, & Unz, 2012). Grouping like documents, and considering layout and navigation would especially play into the Laws of Similarity and Proximity.

Example of Application(s):

Students are presented with the new task of finding the surface area of a 2-dimensional house (a pentagon). Using prior knowledge about finding the area of triangles and rectangles, students can use Gestalt to regroup the shape into a triangle and a square, from which point they can solve the problem.


Dumitru, M. L., & Joergensen, G. H. (2016). Gestalt Reasoning with Conjunctions and Disjunctions. Plos ONE, 11(3), 1-17.


Gao, Z., Gao, Q., Tang, N., Shui, R., & Shen, M. (2016). Organization principles in visual working memory: Evidence from sequential

stimulus display. Cognition, 146277-288. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.10.005

Möller, B., Brezing, C., & Unz, D. (2012). What should a corporate website look like? The influence of Gestalt principles and

visualisation in website design on the degree of acceptance and recommendation. Behaviour & Information Technology, 31(7),

739-751. doi:10.1080/0144929X.2011.642893

Rosli, M. W., & Cabrera, A. (2015). Gestalt Principles in Multimodal Data Representation. IEEE Computer Graphics & Applications,

35(2), 80-87. doi:10.1109/MCG.2015.29

Created by: Lyndsey Boggs