Sunday, February 15, 2009



"Field theory," an application derived from Gestalt theory involving a view of social activities and personality dynamics, received a most articulate expression in Kurt Lewin’s work. In the Gestalt tradition, Lewin argued that personality should be viewed in the context of a dynamic field of individual-environmental interactions.

Lewin believed this "field" to be a Gestalt psychological environment existing in an individual's or in the collective group’s mind at a certain point in time that can be mathematically described in a topological constellation of constructs. Lewin’s model of the "interactive field" of an individual is based on his notion of "hodological space," which is defined as a geometrical system emphasizing a) movement along psychologically directed pathways, b) the dynamics of person-environment interactions, and c) the person’s behavior at environmental obstacles or barriers. The person is viewed in terms of an individual life space, containing not only the predominance of the present hodological space with psychologically directed pathways of movement, but also representations of the past experiences and future expectations.

This "field" is very dynamic, changing with time and experience. When fully constructed, an individual's "field" (Lewin used the term "life space") describes that person's motives, values, needs, moods, goals, anxieties, and ideals. Lewin believed that changes of an individual's "life space" depend upon that individual's internalization of external stimuli (from the physical and social world) into the "life space."

Although Lewin did not use the word "experiential," (see experiential learning) he nonetheless believed that interaction (experience) of the "life space" with "external stimuli" (at what he called the "boundary zone") were important for development (or regression). For Lewin, development (including regression) of an individual occurs when their "life space" has a "boundary zone" experience with external stimuli. It is not merely the experience that causes change in the "life space," but the acceptance (internalization) of external stimuli.

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