a psychological test first developed by
child neuropsychiatrist Lauretta Bender
The test is used to evaluate "visual-
motor maturity", to screen for
developmental disorders, or to assess
neurological function or brain damage.
Bender first described her Visual Motor
Gestalt Test in an 1938 monograph
entitled: A Visual Motor Gestalt Test and
Its Clinical Use.
The test has been used as a screening
device for brain damage. Bender herself
said it was "a method of evaluating
maturation of gestalt functioning children
4-11's brain functioning by which it
responds to a given constellation of
stimuli as a whole, the response being a
motor process of patterning the
It measures perceptual motor skills,
perceptual motor development, and
gives an indication of neurological
intactness. It has been used as a
personality test and a test of emotional
The impetus for the clinical use of the
Bender Gestalt came in the late 1930s
when Max L. Hutt, an Instructor at the
Educational Clinic of City College of
New York became interested in
developing a non-verbal projective
The Bender-II contains 16 figures versus
9 in the original. The new or revised
scoring system for the Bender-II was
developed based on empirical
investigation of numerous scoring
The Bender Gestalt Test is used to
evaluate visual maturity, visual motor
integration skills, style of responding,
reaction to frustration, ability to correct
mistakes, planning and organizational
skills, and motivation. Copying figures
requires fine motor skills, the ability to
discriminate between visual stimuli, the
capacity to integrate visual skills with motor
skills, and the ability to shift attention from
the original design to what is being drawn.
The Bender Gestalt Test should not be
administered to an individual with severe
visual impairment unless his or her vision
has been adequately corrected with
Additionally, the test should not be given to
an examinee with a severe motor
impairment, as the impairment would affect
his or her ability to draw the geometric
figures correctly. The test scores might
thereby be distorted.
The Bender Gestalt Test should never be
used in isolation. When making a
diagnosis, results from the Bender Gestalt
Test should be used in conjunction with
other medical, developmental, educational,
psychological, and neuropsychological
Finally, psychometric testing requires
administration and evaluation by a clinically
trained examiner. If a scoring system is
used, the examiner should carefully
evaluate its reliability and validity, as well
as the normative sample being used.
The Bender Gestalt Test is an
individually administered pencil and
paper test used to make a diagnosis of
There are nine geometric figures drawn
in black. These figures are presented to
the examinee one at a time; then, the
examinee is asked to copy the figure on
a blank sheet of paper.
Examinees are allowed to erase, but
cannot use any mechanical aids (such
The average amount of time to complete
the test is five to ten minutes.
One method requires that the examinee
view each card for five seconds, after
which the card is removed. The examinee
draws the figure from memory.
Another variation involves having the
examinee draw the figures by following the
standard procedure. The examinee is then
given a clean sheet of paper and asked to
draw as many figures as he or she can
Last, the test is given to a group, rather
than to an individual (i.e., standard
Administration of the Bender-Gestalt II
consists of two phases:
○ Examinee is shown stimulus cards with
designs and asked to copy each of the
designs on a sheet of paper
○ Examinee is asked to redraw designs from
Motor and Perception supplemental
tests screen for specific motor and
Kit consists of Examiner’s manual, 16
stimulus cards, observation form,
motor test, and a perception test
Materials needed: Two pencils with erasers, 10
sheets of drawing paper, and a stopwatch (not
included in test kit).
Administer test on a table, seated across from the
examinee if possible
Supply one pencil and one sheet of paper
(vertically in front of examinee)
Show the stimulus cards to the examinee one at a
time (aligned with the top of drawing paper)
Administer stimulus cards in the
correct numeric sequence and do not
allow examinee to turn or manipulate
Inconspicuously measure how long the
examinee takes to complete the items –
record time in minutes and seconds
Document your observations – carefully note
the examinee’s approach to drawing each
Administered immediately following the copy
Examinee is given a new sheet of paper an
asked to draw as many of the designs that
were previously shown.
2 – 4 minutes
Draw a line between the dots in each figure
without touching the borders
2 – 4 minutes
Circle or point to a design in each row that
best matches the design in the box
Angular difficulty: This includes increasing,
decreasing, distorting, or omitting an angle
in a figure.
Bizarre doodling: This involves adding
peculiar components to the drawing that
have no relationship to the original Bender
Closure difficulty: This occurs when the
examinee has difficulty closing open
spaces on a figure, or connecting various
parts of the figure. This results in a gap in
the copied figure.
Cohesion: This involves drawing a part of a
figure larger or smaller than shown on the
original figure and out of proportion with the
rest of the figure. This error may also
include drawing a figure or part of a figure
significantly out of proportion with other
figures that have been drawn.
Collision: This involves crowding the
designs or allowing the end of one design
to overlap or touch a part of another
Contamination: This occurs when a
previous figure, or part of a figure,
influences the examinee in adequate
completion of the current figure. For
example, an examinee may combine two
different Bender Gestalt figures.
Omission: This involves failing to adequately
connect the parts of a figure or reproducing
only parts of a figure.
Overlapping difficulty: This includes problems
in drawing portions of the figures that overlap,
simplifying the drawing at the point that it
overlaps, sketching or redrawing the
overlapping portions, or otherwise distorting
the figure at the point at which it overlaps.
Perseveration: This includes increasing,
prolonging, or continuing the number of units
in a figure. For example, an examinee may
draw significantly more dots or circles than
shown on the original figure.
Fragmentation: This involves destroying part of the
figure by not completing or breaking up the figures in
ways that entirely lose the original design.
Impotence: This occurs when the examinee draws a
figure inaccurately and seems to recognize the error,
then, he or she makes several unsuccessful
attempts to improve the drawing.
Irregular line quality or lack of motor coordination:
This involves drawing rough lines, particularly when
the examinee shows a tremor motion, during the
drawing of the figure.
Line extension: This involves adding or extending a
part of the copied figure that was not on the original
Retrogression: This involves substituting
more primitive figures for the original
design—for example, substituting solid
lines or loops for circles, dashes for dots,
dots for circles, circles for dots, or filling in
circles. There must be evidence that the
examinee is capable of drawing more
Rotation: This involves rotating a figure or
part of a figure by 45° or more. This error is
also scored when the examinee rotates the
stimulus card that is being copied.
Scribbling: This involves drawing primitive
lines that have no relationship to the
original Bender Gestalt figure.
Simplification: This involves replacing a
part of the figure with a more simplified
figure. This error is not due to maturation.
Drawings that are primitive in terms of
maturation would be categorized under
Superimposition of design: This involves
drawing one or more of the figures on top
of each other.
Workover: This involves reinforcing,
increased pressure, or overworking a line
or lines in a whole or part of a figure.
Key Principles of Gestalt Systems
Emergence - is the process of complex pattern
formation from simpler rules.
Reification – is the constructive or generative aspect of
perception, by which the experienced percept contains
more explicit spatial information than the sensory
stimulus on which it is based. Reification can be
explained by progress in the study of illusory contours,
which are treated by the visual system as "real" contours.
Multistability (or multistable perception) - is the tendency
of ambiguous perceptual experiences to pop back and
forth unstably between two or more alternative
Invariance - is the property of perception whereby simple
geometrical objects are recognized independent of
rotation, translation, and scale; as well as several other
variations such as elastic deformations, different lighting,
and different component features.
Gestalt principles of grouping were introduced in Wertheimer
(1923). Through the 1930s and '40s Wertheimer, Kohler and
Koffka formulated many of the laws of grouping through the study
of visual perception.
Law of Proximity—The law of proximity
states that when an individual perceives an
assortment of objects they perceive objects
that are close to each other as forming a
Law of Similarity—The law of similarity
states that elements within an assortment
of objects are perceptually grouped
together if they are similar to each other.
This similarity can occur in the form of
shape, color, shading or other qualities.
Law of Closure—The law of closure states that
individuals perceive objects such as shapes, letters,
pictures, etc., as being whole when they are not
complete. Specifically, when parts of a whole picture
are missing, our perception fills in the visual gap.
Research shows that the reason the mind completes
a regular figure that is not perceived through
sensation is to increase the regularity of surrounding
Law of Symmetry—The law of symmetry states that
the mind perceives objects as being symmetrical and
forming around a center point. It is perceptually
pleasing to divide objects into an even number of
symmetrical parts. Therefore, when two symmetrical
elements are unconnected the mind perceptually
connects them to form a coherent shape. Similarities
between symmetrical objects increase the likelihood
that objects are grouped to form a combined
Law of Common Fate—The law of common
fate states that objects are perceived as lines
that move along the smoothest path.
Experiments using the visual sensory modality
found that movement of elements of an object
produce paths that individuals perceive that
the objects are on. We perceive elements of
objects to have trends of motion, which
indicate the path that the object is on. The law
of continuity implies the grouping together of
objects that have the same trend of motion
and are therefore on the same path.
Law of Continuity—The law of continuity
states that elements of objects tend to be
grouped together, and therefore integrated into
perceptual wholes if they are aligned within an
Law of Good Gestalt—The law of good
gestalt explains that elements of objects
tend to be perceptually grouped together if
they form a pattern that is regular, simple,
and orderly. This law implies that as
individuals perceive the world, they
eliminate complexity and unfamiliarity so
they can observe a reality in its most
Law of Past Experience—The law of past
experience implies that under some
circumstances visual stimuli are
categorized according to past experience.
Gestalt psychologists find it is important to
think of problems as a whole. Max Wertheimer
considered thinking to happen in two ways:
Productive thinking is solving a
problem with insight.
Reproductive thinking is solving a
problem with previous experiences and
what is already known.
The school of Gestalt practiced a series of
theoretical and methodological principles:
Principle of Totality—The conscious
experience must be considered globally (by
taking into account all the physical and
mental aspects of the individual
simultaneously) because the nature of the
mind demands that each component be
considered as part of a system of dynamic
Principle of psychophysical isomorphism -
A correlation exists between conscious
experience and cerebral activity
The following methodological principles are
Phenomenon experimental analysis—In
relation to the Totality Principle any
psychological research should take as a
starting point phenomena and not be solely
focused on sensory qualities.
Biotic experiment—The school of gestalt
established a need to conduct real
experiments that sharply contrasted with and
opposed classic laboratory experiments. This
signified experimenting in natural situations,
developed in real conditions, in which it would
be possible to reproduce, with higher fidelity,
what would be habitual for a subject.