Originally published in 1981, perceptual organization had been synonymous with Gestalt psychology, and Gestalt psychology had fallen into disrepute. In the heyday of Behaviorism, the few cognitive psychologists of the time pursued Gestalt phenomena. But in 1981, Cognitive Psychology was married to Information Processing. (Some would say that it was a marriage of convenience.) After the wedding, Cognitive Psychology had come to look like a theoretically wrinkled Behaviorism; very few of the mainstream topics of Cognitive Psychology made explicit contact with Gestalt phenomena. In the background, Cognition's first love – Gestalt – was pining to regain favor.
The cognitive psychologists' desire for a phenomenological and intellectual interaction with Gestalt psychology did not manifest itself in their publications, but it did surface often enough at the Psychonomic Society meeting in 1976 for them to remark upon it in one of their conversations.
This book, then, is the product of the editors’ curiosity about the status of ideas at the time, first proposed by Gestalt psychologists. For two days in November 1977, they held an exhilarating symposium that was attended by some 20 people, not all of whom are represented in this volume. At the end of our symposium it was agreed that they would try, in contributions to this volume, to convey the speculative and metatheoretical ground of their research in addition to the solid data and carefully wrought theories that are the figure of their research.