|dc.description.abstract||Humans are unique in their ability to use tools to produce works which communicate information about 3D objects through 2D drawings. Drawings give us insight into the origins of our species, our uniqueness amongst animals, and our creative ability to produce images from the strategic placement of line and marks. Considerable research has been devoted to the ontogeny of drawing skill and considerable speculation has been devoted to the psychological value of drawings themselves. For example, children’s ability to produce human figure drawings develops in a highly predictable stage-like manner, but the rate at which individual children progress through each stage varies considerably. These two characteristics - a consistent developmental pattern coupled with individual differences in the rate of development - have led many to argue that human figure drawings (HFDs) can be used as a measure of intelligence. One characteristic of traditional pen and paper intelligence tests is that they are highly resistant to instruction. In Study 1, I assessed the effect of instruction on 11- and 12-year-old children’s scores on the most recent HFD test, the DAP:IQ. Children showed significant gains shortly after art instruction, but their scores returned to pre-instruction levels when they were tested 6 months later. These data challenge the view that the DAP: IQ provides a valid measure of intelligence.
Despite the limited value of drawings as measures of intelligence, the possible benefits of drawing per se have been under-explored in contemporary research. Students of art have traditionally drawn from life as a way to improve their drawing skills, but little is known about the cognitive benefits of this practice. In Study 2, I examined the effect of drawing on visitors’ memory for museum exhibits. Three groups completed a tour of a museum exhibit, ‘Wonders of the World’: two of these groups consisted of adults (self-identified artists and non-artists) and the third group consisted of children under the age of 13. Individuals from each group were accompanied by a researcher who instructed the participant to sketch or to merely observe each object while completing the tour. Adults observed ten objects and drew ten objects and children observed six objects and drew six objects; irrespective of whether they drew or observed, all participants spent the same amount of time with each object. One week later, they were asked to recall the objects they learned about on the tour, and then they were asked a series of specific questions about the visual details of the objects. For adult artists and children, drawing enhanced recall and recognition, but for adult non-artists, it did not. That is, for those participants who were comfortable with the medium, drawing provide an inexpensive opportunity to facilitate learning and memory in museums.
Despite the positive outcomes associated with drawing, drawing as a pastime is decreasing in popularity with children, which some would attribute to the rise of digital culture and increased screen time in young people’s lives. But not all digital technology is without benefit and one digital interface that allows for creative activity in a virtual world is Minecraft. In Study 3, I examined whether using creative digital tools might also aid children’s memory for museum visits. Children took a tour of an industrial museum, either ‘in-game’ using Minecraft or by visiting the physical site and then three of the four groups completed a follow-up worksheet to find additional information. Two groups completed this worksheet ‘in-game’ using Minecraft. Students who experienced the physical tour and the follow-up worksheet activities in Minecraft had the best retention of facts one week later. Interestingly, students who completed a physical tour followed by the onsite worksheet activities recalled the same amount of information as students who completed all activities ‘in-game’ in their school classroom. That is, Minecraft proved to be an inexpensive opportunity to facilitate learning and memory on field trips.
Taken together, the present research challenges some traditional assumptions about drawing, demonstrating at least one way in which it can be used to enhance learning and memory, at least for some groups of participants. For children on field trips, this research also extends the learning and memory value of digital gaming, a contemporary pastime which has superseded drawing in children’s day-to-day lives. The evolutionary history of drawing is linked to the emergence of tool use in humans: modern, digital tools build on those that have come before them. The studies in this thesis explore part of this journey.||