Identifying by gestalt

Love this concept!

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wow that is kind of disturbing, i’d never use that word for that, to me that word means something very different which i won’t mention in the forum :/

That being said, yeah, same thing!

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Lol! I’ve seen that term even used in official birding books.

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I prefer gestalt, given the other word’s alternate meaning and to avoid confusion / embarrassment. There’s also GIS, which might be the other word’s origin, which you can pronounce as jiss – stands for “general impression and shape.” Then there’s jiss as a contraction of “just is.”

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I just say ‘gist’. It’s similar enough and basically means the same thing.

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I can definitely relate. And one of the learning opportunities for me on iNaturalist is that, when someone challenges my gestalt ID, it forces me to try to put that gestalt into words, some times successfully, and some times not. Educational either way, for all involved.

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The intention behind the word is - General ImpreSSion (g-i-ss) - shape size colour, movement.

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true, and when it IS possible to put in words it is really valuable

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gis/gissen also comes from Dutch (also Afrikaans, as you probably know) and it stands for guessing.

It also comes from Yiddish, where it means ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’

So it basically means making an educated guess…

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Despite those linguistic connections, that doesn’t seem to quite match the usage of the word in the U.S. birding world. As @dianastuder and others have pointed out, it implies an identification from an overall impression of size/shape/pattern. As I understand and use the term, identifying a bird by its jizz or giss is a conscientious identification based on gross details rather than finer details of plumage, etc. It’s not a guess, although such an ID does take experience and “education” (in bird ID) in that sense.

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Not about guessing. It is that immediate gut response - hullo Sally, fancy meeting you here?!
How do I do know that, is Sally? Well, but, I just do, that’s Sally!

How do I know your tiny thumbnail avatar says fern fundi?

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I do experience this aswell, not in the birding world, so I don’t know if the same term applies here. But I have a feeling there should be an underlying (deep) knowledge of the species in question. I don’t think it’s appropriate to use for a (bird) that you just know about. It either has to be a (bird) that you see regularly, or one that you’ve studied online/in books. Is that a correct assumption?

It’s also based on where the bird is seen — location and habitat — which factors into the ID process, consciously or not.

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Oh, dear lord, I do hope no one starts calling GIS “jiss”. I don’t want to have to introduce myself to folks as a “jiss specialist”!

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This is why experienced identifiers might not explain their ID unless someone asks. The brain is a pattern recognizer, and that’s a much faster function than the rather tedious keying out that one must do if pattern recognition isn’t possible. It would take much longer to explain why this is a Geranium robertianum rather than a Geranium sanguineum than to recognize it.

Of course, one should also know the look-alike species and take a bit of time to consider them when going through ids, as that is where we need something more than what the pattern recognition function in our brains can deliver.

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My son is very good at this. He can get a glimpse of something, or see something from across a huge field, and can tell what it is. I think somehow there’s just an ability to immediately eliminate similar possibilities based on looking at it very briefly.

I also personally resonate with

and

because I’ve gotten better at doing what my son was almost instantly able to do. And I find myself getting a lot better and quicker at it all the time. There’s been plenty of times where I know X and Y aren’t the same thing despite looking very similar, but I can’t pinpoint specifically what it is that differentiates them. But I see it. But I don’t know what it is… Arg.

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First of all - as a german I am of course totally in for the term Gestalt. Just makes sense :wink:

I also do a lot of Gestalt-IDs, and yes… those are also a reason why I do not put an explanation to many IDs as it would take me to long to put it into words.
And yes, Gestalt-recognition sometimes goes beyond what science knows (meaning somehow officially documented). For example, it is said that for the spiders I worked with during my studies, it is basically impossible to tell whether the females are adult, due to some anatomic peculiarities… however, after dealing with thousands of them, I quickly realized that I could tell whether they are mature or not with a security of 95%… after a while even with just a quick look at them. I sometimes annotate them accordingly here…

However, I think one should be prepared to be able to explain the ID anyways, if the question arises. “I just know” is just a not good enough baseline for a community science page like this. Then anybody could insist on any ID they do… it needs to be understandable in the end for anybody willing to check and learn

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If you are a birder and don’t get photo-documentation of what you see, you should always gestalt with a sense of humility. Even a veteran birder can fool themselves in what they think they saw, especially if the bird is a species they really want to see. When birding with novice birders, do not gestalt to impress them. And always assume that what you think you saw fly by might not be what you really saw. My simple rules for gestalting in the field. (Apologies to German speakers for using it as a verb.) ;-)

Good discussion here:
https://www.fieldmuseum.org/blog/jizz-andor-gestalt

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I agree, most IDers do explain their ID if asked, and it can be a good exercise to put into words how to actually tell the difference, especially learning the appropriate use of technical terms.

I can easily say a leaf is narrow or wide, serrated or lobed, but much more difficult to explain a complex shape pattern of some leaves, so there it will just be “distinguished by leaf shape”.

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This is pretty much the only reason I have learned a lot of the technical terms for plants and insects I’m interested in. I realized I need to recognize what my subconscious was picking up on or else I’d just seem crazy to other people!

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