The experimental study of gestalts began in 1910 with the study of certain phenomena of perception, and led to a school of thought known as "gestalt psychology" which was based on a holistic concept of mind and body and which stressed the psychological importance of body presentation.
Such an image is a gestalt because it has an effect which none of its component parts have in isolation; this effect is to act as a "releasing mechanism" (French: déclencheur) which triggers certain instinctual responses, such as reproductive behavior.
For humans the body image is also a gestalt which produces instinctual responses, especially sexual ones, but the power of the image is also more than merely instinctual; it constitutes the essential captivating power of the specular image (see captation).
It is by identifying with the unified gestalt of the body image that the ego is constantly threatened by fears of disintegration, which manifest themselves in images of the fragmented body; these images represent the opposite of the unified gestalt of the body image.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 121f