Rooms without walls: Young children draw objects but not layouts

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Description: Rich qualitative and quantitative research has explored children’s drawings for insights about human development. However, this prior work has not addressed how early emerging spatial categories, like scenes (large, extended layouts) and objects (small, manipulable forms), might pose unique challenges to children’s pictorial representations. Following a preregistered design and analysis plan, 64 4-year-old children sat either in a colorful “fort” or looked at a small “toy” version of the fort and were asked to draw exactly what they saw. Children’s drawings often omitted the walls composing the scene’s layout for the fort but included the corresponding object-part information for the toy. Children may have found the distances and directions of the scene’s elements more difficult to draw than the shapes of objects, and children may have heightened interest in objects. To better understand drawing as uniquely human symbolic and artistic expression, one must consider specific spatial domains of human cognition.

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