Pictorial Depth Cues in Young Children’s Drawings of Layouts and Objects

AbstractHumans have been faced with the challenges of pictorial production since at least the Paleolithic. Curiously, while the capacity to navigate layouts and recognize objects in everyday life comes almost effortlessly, inherited from our evolutionary past, the capacity to draw layouts and objects is more effortful, often needing time to improve over the course of an individual’s development and with the technological innovations acquired through culture. The present study examines whether young children might nevertheless rely on phylogenetically ancient spatial capacities for navigation and object recognition when creating uniquely human pictorial art. We apply a novel digital coding technique to a publicly available dataset of young children’s drawings of layouts and objects to explore children’s use of classic pictorial depth cues including size, position, and overlap. To convey pictorial depth, children appear to adopt several cues, without a preference among them, younger than had been suggested by previous studies that used other, less rich, analytic techniques. Moreover, children use more cues to pictorial depth in drawings of layouts versus objects. Children’s creation of uniquely human pictorial symbols may thus reflect their heightened use of depth for navigating layouts compared to recognizing objects, both cognitive capacities that humans share with other animals.

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