Cognitive Science Lunchtime Talk
Drawing to learn: how visual production refines object representations
Abstract: Since the first cave etchings were made 40,000 years ago in modern-day Spain and Indonesia, an ever-increasing amount of the world's surface area has become dedicated to housing human thoughts. So useful are these external stores, humans have devised numerous technologies for inscribing their ideas and observations. As one of the most ancient of such techniques, drawings predate symbolic writing systems, are pervasive in many cultures, and are produced prolifically by children today. As such, drawing provides a unique opportunity to investigate the human mind. Yet we know astonishingly little about the cognitive and neural mechanisms that support the ability to convey an idea by drawing. In this talk, I will describe an approach to systematically study drawing as a form of visual production, and a behavior that interacts with other aspects of cognition. First, I will review some key previous findings that motivate our hypothesis that visual production refines object representations. I will then describe an approach we developed to quantify representational change using a perceptual task. Finally, I will present some of our preliminary findings using this approach. Such studies provide a platform for understanding how perception and action are intimately related during visual production, as well as the important role that production can play in learning. Ultimately, inquiries into the psychological basis of visual production may shed new light upon the origins of symbolic writing systems for communication, and the very nature of our ability to apprehend abstract meanings from visual artifacts.