Von Restorff, Hedwig

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Basic Biographical Information

Hedwig von Restorff was born in Berlin on December 14, 1906. After an education focused on classical languages, she entered the University of Berlin at the age of 20 and studied philosophy, psychology, and the natural sciences; she obtained her Ph.D. under the supervision of Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Köhler (1887–1967) in the year 1933, the year of her first publication, announcing her discovery of what is known to this day as the “von Restorff effect” or “isolation effect” (von Restorff 1933). In the words of one reviewer: “In 1933 von Restorff reported a series of studies the results of which may be summarized in the following statement: Isolating an item against a crowded or homogenous background facilitates the learning of that isolated item” (Wallace 1965, p. 410).

By the time the article appeared in the prestigious Gestalt journal Psychologische Forschung, Köhler had left Germany for the USA; he had unabashedly expres ...