Artists have superior local and global processing abilities but show a preference for initially drawing globally

Drake, Jennifer; Riccio, A; Chamberlain, Rebecca and Kozbelt, Aaron. 2024. Artists have superior local and global processing abilities but show a preference for initially drawing globally. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 18(3), pp. 357-371. ISSN 1931-3896 [Article]

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The attentional demands of drawing require both local processing of an object’s details and global processing of its overall structure. In this study, we examined the extent to which artists have superior local and global processing skills, how these skills relate to artists’ ability to draw realistically and to autistic-related traits, and whether artists initially take a local or global approach to drawing. Forty first-year college art students and 41 nonart students completed two tasks assessing local processing and two tasks assessing global processing. Participants completed two drawing tasks that assessed their ability to draw realistically, two copying tasks that assessed whether they showed a preference for initially copying the local or global aspects of an object, and the Autism-Spectrum Quotient that assessed autistic-related traits. We found that art students outperformed nonart students on both the local and global processing tasks and that drawing ability was related to performance on these tasks. We also found that art students were more likely than nonart students to initially copy the global features in their drawings. Finally, we found that art students did not exhibit more autistic-related traits than nonart students and that the number of autistic-related traits was unrelated to performance on the local and global processing, drawing, or copying tasks. These results suggest that art students have an attentional flexibility that allows them to process information at a local and global level but that they have a preference for initially drawing globally.

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“©American Psychological Association, [2021]. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at:”

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1 July 2021Accepted
21 October 2021Published Online
June 2024Published

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16 Aug 2021 12:40

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09 Jul 2024 21:13

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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