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Max Wertheimer's Comments on Lauretta Bender's Gestalt Test:

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Latest update of this page: 23.05.2004

QUESTION (by Jane B. K.):

I am working on a research assignment which requires me to do a critical analysis on Lauretta Bender's Gestalt Test. Since this test seems to go back on ideas of Max Wertheimer, I wonder if there exist any written comments of Max Wertheimer on Lauretta Bender's work. Can you help me?

ANSWER (by Gerhard Stemberger):

In 1935 Max WERTHEIMER wrote some comments (by invitation) on Lauretta BENDERs article Gestalt Function In Visual Motor Patterns In Organic Disease Of The Brain, published in Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 33, p. 328.

Here is what Max WERTHEIMER had to say about Lauretta BENDERs work presented in this article which led to the now well known Bender Motor Gestalt Test:


Dr. Max WERTHEIMER (by invitation):

Dr. Bender's experiments are interesting; I hope that she will be able to continue this work, which involves many problems. It is not possible in so short a time to formulate the problems of the Gestalt theory. The investigations of Dr. Bender are of twofold interest: first, from the point of view of theory and second, from that of differential diagnosis. Concerning the second point, I wish to ask Dr. Bender whether she thinks that she would be able to make use of her results in differential diagnosis. Dr. Bender's findings generally are in agreement with the Gestalt laws, as far as I can see. The method which Dr. Bender has chosen for practical reasons, the method of drawing a thing by sight, of slowly copying a given drawing, which is continuously in view, is a somewhat dangerous method of solving the problem because it has, under certain circumstances, a slight tendency toward disintegrating figural patterns; it is also a complicated method, because it is not known in each case what is conditioned by the tendencies of the visual field and what by motor abilities and tendencies; the tendencies in both visual and motor patterns are mutually interwoven in the results. I agree that the two are closely connected, but the connection is not as simple as one may be tempted to infer. In Berlin and in Frankfort my co-workers and I tried to investigate and to use various methods specifically adapted to visual and to motor questions; in some cases the results were, up to a certain point, very different in effect, even though they agreed in principle.

Decided disturbances of figural patterns occur in cases of alexia, agraphia, aphasia, etc. In such cases there is often a great lability in the grasp of a figural pattern. The subject is incapable of conceiving and holding fixed, clear, integrated figural patterns; there is a tendency toward simpler, less integrated, less secure Gestalt processes.

It is interesting to note in the results of Dr. Bender how personality factors can be discerned in these drawings. Dr. Bender pointed out, for example, the tendency to fantastic embellishments in certain cases. The drawings sometimes show various traits of character; for example, some are painfully awkward and petty; some grotesque; some, cold and stiff; some, pompous. These and other tendencies often develop together with psychic illness and can be most clearly studied in the cases of sick painters. In some cases I have found a kind of interesting negativism. I believe that it is worth while to study these traits of character explicitly by experiment; Gcstalt problems are also present here.

Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 33 (1935), p. 328

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