What kind of factors influence the drawing process in adults?
Psychology professors Dale J. Cohen and Susan Bennett explore this topic in a series of experiments conducted at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
In Why Can’t Most People Draw What They See?, Cohen and Bennett present four possible reasons why adults may not be able to draw what they see. They explain that drawing inaccuracies in adult drawings may occur because of:
Artist Misperception of an Object
Cohen & Bennett (1997) explain that an artist’s illusions and delusions can result in drawing inaccuracies. What’s an example of a delusion? An artist relying on what they know about an object instead of the actual physical features of an object.
Artist Inability to Make Good Representational Decisions
This refers to an artist’s inability to decide what to include in a drawing and how to represent it.
Artist Motor Skills
This refers to an artist’s ability to create the proper marks on paper after they have perceived an object and made good decisions about how to represent an object. Cohen & Bennett (1997) explain that mark making “is a physical process, not a perceptual or cognitive process” and that artists must have the “appropriate motor skills” to make the marks required to create a representational drawing.
Artist Misperception of Their Drawing
This refers to an artist’s perception of their own work. If an artist perceives a mark to be more accurate than it really is, drawing inaccuracies will go uncorrected.
Cohen and Bennett (1997) created four experiments to assess the effect decision-making, motor skills and artist misperception of drawings have on the drawing process. Each experiment was designed to investigate these effects in isolation. The participants in these studies were college students. Some served as experimental subjects (i.e., they completed rendering tasks assigned by the researchers) and some served as critics (i.e., evaluators) of the drawings created by the other students.
After methodically assessing the effects described above, Cohen & Bennett (1997) observed the following:
- An artist’s decision-making capabilities are “a relatively minor source” (Cohen & Bennett, 1997) of drawing inaccuracies in adult drawings.
- Motor coordination is not a significant source of drawing inaccuracies in adult drawings.
- An artist’s misperception of their own work is not a source of drawing inaccuracies in adult drawings.
So what is a source of drawing inaccuracies in adult drawings?
An artist’s misperception of an object.
How Cohen & Bennett (1997) designed each experiment and assessed each effect in isolation is very interesting. For a detailed account of Cohen and Bennett’s materials, methods, findings and statistical analysis for each experiment, please see their paper. Their paper is available for free on the website of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Cohen & Bennett (1997) is one of the many articles cited by Jennifer Landin in her dissertation. Do you have questions about drawing and learning?
Cohen, Dale J. and Susan Bennett. 1997. Why can’t most people draw what they see? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 23(3): 609-621. Web. http://people.uncw.edu/cohend/research/papers/Cohen%20and%20Bennett%2097.pdf [accessed 6 September 2013]