Effects of Collaborative Expression Using LEGO[R] Blocks, on Social Skills and Trust

Article excerpt

Although blocks were originally developed as toys for children, they are now used as a medium of communication and a material for expression in art therapy. With regard to the use of blocks during individual art therapy, we examined previous fundamental and case studies. Irie and Ohmori (1991) describe how blocks were used as a means of communication between mute children and therapists in therapy sessions. During these sessions, the child's expressions gradually increased in both content and creativity, reducing their muteness. Kato (2006) compared the effects of block creations using scores gained on the Profile of Mood States (POMS; McNair, Lorr, & Droppelman, 1981) before and after the creation. He found that scores on the POMS after the block technique were significantly lower on the five scales of tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, fatigue-inertia, and confusion-bewilderment, than were the scores before the block technique was utilized. As shown in these studies, block creation positively affects moods and might be a useful material in art therapy.

Blocks can be used as a material for expression in individual and group art therapy situations. LeGoff (2004) used blocks as a communication tool among a group of autistic children and showed that blocks facilitated their social skills. Kato, Takaki, Katsurada, Hamada, and Wu (2010) conducted an activity using blocks to foster collaborative expression among a cross-cultural communication group comprising students from several countries. The activity not only facilitated group member communication but also positively affected their moods. From this, it is possible to see how blocks are a useful medium for communication that can be used in several areas, such as education and psychotherapy. However, even though these practical studies are important for future application, the number of statistical studies is insufficient. It is, therefore, necessary to examine further the evidence about the psychological effects of block creation.

Collaborative expression can be applied to a range of participants, such as autistic children and international students (LeGoff, 2004; Kato et al., 2010), and it may affect certain psychological aspects, for example, social skills or mood states.

In this study we examined the effects of collaborative expression using blocks, focusing on the psychological aspects of social skills, trust in others, and trust in oneself, during the process of the activity. We focused on high school students as participants and proposed the following hypothesis.

Social skills, trust in others, and trust in oneself will significantly increase through collaborative expression based on block creation.



Thirty-nine Japanese high school students participated in the study (6 males and 33 females; all participants were aged either 16 or 17 years). The collaborative expression activity was held as part of a psychology class in a university summer school. The participants were randomly divided into groups of three or four.


LEGO[R]'s green plastic plates (50 [cm.sup.2]) and several types of blocks were provided for each group. Among the basic blocks provided were standard cube-shaped blocks in the following colors: red, blue, green, yellow, white, black, and brown. We also offered a variety of differently shaped blocks such as animals, plants, wheels, windows, and doors. LEGO[R] sets generally contain human figures and, for the study, a number of male and female figures were provided for each group. The figures were detailed with uniforms, clothes, and belongings, such as tools and bags, that corresponded with a variety of occupations, such as office workers, carpenters, and police officers.


The participants were asked to express collaboratively with other group members anything they desired on the group's plate using LEGO[R] blocks and figures. …