Gestalt theory: implications for radiology education

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2008 May;190(5):1156-60. doi: 10.2214/AJR.07.3268.


Objective: The Gestalt theory of modern psychology is grounded in the ideas that holistic rather than atomistic approaches are necessary to understand the mind, and that the mental whole is greater than the sum of its component parts. Although the Gestalt school fell out of favor due to its descriptive rather than explanatory nature, it permanently changed our understanding of perception. For the radiologist, such fundamental Gestalt concepts as figure-ground relationships and a variety of "grouping principles" (the laws of closure, proximity, similarity, common region, continuity, and symmetry) are ubiquitous in daily work, not to mention in art and personal life.

Conclusion: By considering the applications of these principles and the stereotypical ways in which humans perceive visual stimuli, a radiology learner may incur fewer errors of diagnosis. This article serves to introduce several important principles of Gestalt theory, identify examples of these principles in widely recognizable fine art, and highlight their implications for radiology education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Gestalt Theory*
  • Humans
  • Perceptual Closure*
  • Radiology / education*