CriticaLink | Lacan: The Mirror Stage | Terms


The German word Gestalt means "pattern" or "figure." As a psychological concept, Gestalt refers to our perception of a form whose meaning exceeds the totality of its components--a Gestalt is always greater than the sum of its parts. Gestalt psychology is founded on the observation that we do not comprehend our world as an assemblage of disparate elements, but as a pattern of meaningful forms. Our understanding of a "home", for example, is derived from more than merely the materials and architectural plans that produce the physical "house." A "face" is likewise more than a collection of identifiable parts. For Lacan, the imago with which the infant identifies in the mirror stage is a kind of Gestalt. The infant recognizes not only that it is a particular shape, but also grasps that this shape has a special--in fact transformative--significance.