Who is Kurt Koffka?June 25, 2021
Kurt Koffka (March 18, 1886 – November 22, 1941) was a German psychologist.
Kurt Koffka was born on March 18, 1886 in Berlin. His father, Emil Koffka, was a lawyer, and his younger brother Friedrich was a judge. His mother, Luis Levy, was of Jewish descent but considered himself a Protestant. Koffka married Mira Klein, who came to him for treatment in 1909. Their marriage ended in 1923, and soon after, he married Elisabeth Ahlgrimm, who had just completed her doctorate at Giessen. He and Ahlgrimm divorced three years later, and Koffka remarried to Mira; but they divorced a second time in 1928 and then remarried to Ahlgrimm. Kurt and Elisabeth remained married for the rest of their lives.
Together with Max Wertheimer and his close friends, Wolfgang Köhler, they founded Gestalt psychology. Koffka’s interests were wide-ranging and included: perception, hearing impairments, interpretation, learning, and the extension of Gestalt theory to developmental psychology in patients with brain damage.
The Gestalt movement, founded by Koffka, Köhler, and Wertheimer, was a challenge to the reductionist theories of psychology (for example, behaviorism) that were widely adopted at the time. In these theories, it was argued that if psychology was a science, all of its subjects should be analysable, but not enough attention was paid to experience, which was taken as a starting point. The pioneers of Gestalt theory, on the other hand, argued that the subject of psychology was experience itself and that experience should not be separated from its “natural” elements in laboratory studies.
Koffka focused more on researching problems related to visual perception in his studies. By drawing attention to the differences between the stimuli (stimulus) with his experiments, he revealed that there is a “stimulus definition” problem in psychology. In his last major work, Principles of Gestalt Psychology, he tried to gather the work of all members and students of the Gestalt group into one main point of view. The book’s greatest contribution was in perception, learning and memory. Koffka, who has been examining the place of experience in the formation of perception since his first works and changing his views from time to time, insisted on the inclusive effect of memory and past experiences on perceptions and events in this work. With the concept of trace, he suggested that new processes emerging in the central nervous system contain traces of old processes and only this phenomenon makes mental development understandable.
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Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Ömer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook