Do drawing stages really exist? Children’s early mapping of perspective

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Drawing in perspective seems to involve a prolonged development and is not usually present in children’s drawings before about age 9—at least as found in previous research. In the study presented here, we built several three-dimensional spatial models to simulate the developmental stages of children’s spatial drawing systems, a simple platform without spatial constraints (Stage 1), and a platform with walls and a sky lid (earth model; Stage 2). Stage 3 (orthogonal) and Stage 4 (perspective) models had explicit boundaries around the spatial field to denote areas and a matched control that controlled for the surround area outside of the boundaries. Four age groups from 7 to 10 years of age drew five non-overlapping figures. All age groups adapted the average figure size to the level of the spatial system (stage) of the models but only when explicit spatial field boundaries were available: The more advanced the spatial system, the smaller the average figure size. It was striking to note that 7- to 8-year-old children drew in perspective as often as 9- to 10-year-olds when the spatial models had a trapezoid field with converging diagonal sides. This early perspective mapping may have occurred because of the agreement between retinal image (appearance) and design (identity) of the perspective models. Hence, it would be more useful to think of the perspective drawing development as a layered rather than as a stagewise process because typically developing young children can access low-level visual information and draw in perspective instead of deploying high-level conceptual knowledge about the geometrical principles of perspective construction.


Image courtesy of interviewee

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