Up to this time, around 1900, Philosophy had followed itself with some guidance from its kin, the science called Physics. Thus, when the great upheaval occurred within Physics, it was not too difficult to conceive of a similar upset within the field of Psychology, both being so closely tied to Philosophy from their beginnings.
Out of Germany at the end of World War I (WWI), once favored to be called the “War to end all war”, came Albert Einstein's revolutionary field theories, bringing with them the field theory of Gestalt thought as well. Simply stated, Gestalt Psychology is concerned with the whole of something being different than the sum of its parts; for the most part, greater.
In discussing sight, for instance, a basic element of Gestalt being the visual element, it was according to Zakea, "any kind of a visual stimulus that is readily seen as a discrete unit." Visual elements vary in size, shape, color (hue, chroma, value), texture, mass, time, and others; they can be similar, or dissimilar.
Initially, one starts with what is called Ganzfeld, a situation wherein the visual field is a homogeneous one. Consider this condition as one in which a person cannot make visual discriminations, as can happen when one looks into a deep fog, or a “white out” in Antarctica or other typically snow bound environment. The item to be added to the homogeneous field is considered the figure; while the field itself is now denoted, ground. There now exists a definite separation between the two. The individual observing a figure-ground gestalt is the only one able to relatively define which is figure and which is ground in a pattern.
There are four basic principles that help a person to see objects as patterns, or as a “good” figure. These are:
In proximity, the closer that two or more visual elements are, the more probable it is that a group or pattern will be observed. Similarity, indicates that items seen as related are usually similar. Continuity, is the concept that visual elements require the least number of defining components and will be organized so that continuous straight or curved lines are formed. Closure, lastly and most importantly is: a set of familiar lines and shapes which are nearly complete and therefore are more readily observed as complete, or closed; though not as incomplete, as one may expect.