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Compare and Contrast Edwin Ray Guthrie and Kurt Koffka


Compareand Contrast Edwin Ray Guthrie and Kurt Koffka

Compareand Contrast Edwin Ray Guthrie and Kurt Koffka

Psychologycan be defined as the scientific study of the human mind and itsfunctions. Psychology helps in explaining how people think, feel oract either individually or as a group. Psychology as a discipline ismultifaceted with sub-fields that include areas such as humandevelopment, health, cognitive processes and social behaviorism. Bornin 1886, Edwin Ray Guthrie was a native of Lincoln, Nebraska and abehavioral psychologist by profession. He was the son of a storemanager father and schoolteacher mother. He acquired His bachelor’sand master’s degree from the University of Nebraska, in the fieldsof philosophy, mathematics, and psychology respectively. He laterreceived a doctorate after joining the University of Pennsylvania. Heis celebrated in the psychology field for his learning theorydevelopment. Contrastingly, Kurt Koffka was a Germany-psychologistborn in 1886. He is a co-founder of the Gestalt school of psychology.He undertook a psychology course at the University of Berlin, wherehe graduated with a Ph.D., in 1909. He is renowned for his Gestaltprincipals’ application. This essay compares and contrasts twopsychological theories of Edwin Ray Guthrie and Kurt Koffka.

ContinuityTheory and the Gestalt Theory

Guthriedeveloped the law of contiguity that states that a combination ofstimuli that has accompanied a movement will be followed by the sameaction upon its recurrence. According to his theory, all learning isbased on the response to stimuli associated with it. It is thesemovements that make up and act (Benjamin, 2014). Guthrie stated thateach action produces a stimulus which is then conditioned to form abehavior. His theory of continuity implies that forgetting is due tothe interference of stimuli coordination because the stimuli have toadapt to new responses every time (Seel, 2011). Guthrie argues thatwe only learn what we do by ourselves emphasizing that need to changecircumstances for learning to take place. In comparison with Koffka’stheory of gestalt theory, we find similarities in the learningprocesses. The two psychologists argue that learning is a gradualprocess that results from reorganizing circumstances to a situationwe are familiar with. They both agree that education was goaloriented rather than stimulus-controlled and that reward wasnecessary for learning to take place. In the theory of continuity,the compensation acted as a stimulus giving an example for teachersto appreciate their students when they ask for their homework to bepassed forward and the students react by giving out the homework. Toboth psychologists, learning would only take place if there was astimulus that caused an action.

Thegestalt theory focused its experiment on perception rather thanstimuli as compared to Guthrie continuity theory. According toKoffka’s research, global features are detected as a whole ratherthan as single, simple elements and that the process for identifyingthese features is constructive (Seel, 2011). He argues thatindividuals will more often than not, change the incomplete visualsinto a clearer image. This raised new questions about problem solvingand thinking among the psychologist. He maintained the idea that theorganization of stimuli in a field is in itself a process thatinfluences an individual (Benjamin, 2014). This is in completecontrast to the concepts shared in the theory of continuity, wheremovement is what influenced the reoccurrence of a stimulus. Theirdifference is based on the different perception of what influencesthe other. Even though the two psychologists will agree that astimulus must be involved for learning to take place, they differ onhow the impetus affects the learning process. Koffka bases hisargument on human visual perception while Guthrie focuses on aparticular stimulus that constructs the knowledge passively.


Bothof these theories are accepted and used widely by psychologists forthe mere fact that they use simple facts and terms to illustratetheir ideas. They agree on the process involved in learning but onlydiffer on how the procedure takes place. Both consider theinvolvement of a stimulus in the process of learning, agreeing thatwhen studying there must be change and reorganization of thestimulus. Psychologists are still continuing to expand on thesetheories so as to come up with a conclusive theory and understandingon how learning takes place in an organism. 


Benjamin,L. T. (2014). Abrief history of modern psychology.Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Seel,N. M. (2011). Encyclopediaof the sciences of learning.New York: Springer.