Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Look Little, Look Often: The Influence of Gaze Frequency on Drawing Accuracy

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Look Little, Look Often: The Influence of Gaze Frequency on Drawing Accuracy

Article excerpt

The present article attempts to determine what those who draw accurately do differently than those who do not. Four experiments explore the relation between drawing accuracy and the rate at which artists glance between their drawing and the stimulus (termed gaze frequency). Experiment 1 revealed a positive relation between gaze frequency and drawing accuracy (r^sup 2^ = .33). Experiments 2, 3, and 4 demonstrated that gaze frequency directly influences drawing accuracy. High gaze frequencies may facilitate drawing accuracy by (1) allowing the artist to hold less information in working memory, (2) reducing memory distortion, and (3) facilitating the reduction of context effects through inattentional blindness.

Drawing is a complex procedure that recruits numerous cognitive, perceptual, and motor processes, ranging from those involved in the initial viewing of the stimulus to those involved in the evaluation of one's rendering (D. J. Cohen & Bennett, 1997). A breakdown in one or more of these processes can lead to drawing errors, so it is not surprising that most people cannot draw what they see. Nevertheless, some people succeed at drawing what they see. This article attempts to determine what those who succeed do differently than those who fail.

Drawing Accuracy and Stimulus Interpretation

In the year 415, Wang Wei hypothesized that adults' drawing errors arise as a result of perceptual transformations. He stated that young artists should be wary of their perceptions of objects because "the form of the object must first fuse with the spirit, after which the mind transforms it in many ways" (Sze, 1956, p. 39). In the 19th century, John Ruskin popularized this hypothesis and proposed that the perceptual transformations that lead to drawing errors are the result of learned associations. Ruskin coined the term the innocent eye to describe the act of viewing stimuli without the contamination of learned associations (Ruskin, 1843, cited in Rosenberg, 1963). Although Ruskin believed that one could not realistically render an object without acquiring an innocent eye, he believed that a truly innocent eye is unattainable.

The influence of stimulus interpretation on the drawing process is relatively well documented (Blakemore, 1973; Blakemore, Carpenter, & Georgeson, 1970; Deregowski, 1973; Freeman, 1980, 1987; Gregory, 1990; Lee, 1989; Reith, 1988; Van Sommers, 1984; Willats, 1997). Van Sommers provided a direct demonstration of this influence by creating simple line drawings that had two viable interpretations (see Figure 1). The author presented participants with each line drawing along with one of its interpretations and asked them to copy the line drawings. Van Sommers videotaped the participants' executions of the drawings. The data revealed that their interpretations of the stimuli influenced their stroke direction and position. For example, when presented with the stimulus in Figure 1, participants who were told that it represented crossed swords drew two straight lines that crossed in the middle. In contrast, those who were told that it represented sniffing mice drew angled lines that represented each mouse's nose.

More generally, Lee (1989) has demonstrated that stimulus interpretation will negatively influence the drawing process even when the stimulus is unambiguous. Lee presented black and white outline drawings of parts of tables to primary and secondary school children and asked them to copy the stimuli exactly as they were presented. In one experiment, the children were told that the stimuli represented parts of a table. In another experiment, they were shown the same stimuli, but they were not told what the stimuli represented. The data showed that the children who interpreted the stimuli as parts of tables made large and robust drawing errors. In contrast, those who were given no interpretation of the stimuli made few drawing errors. Thus, Lee provided a convincing demonstration that stimulus interpretation influences drawing accuracy even in the absence of ambiguity. …

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