Big Picture: Decaying drawings

DOWNLOAD PDF FOR POSTER. Images from research by artist Rachel Cohen and psychologist Benjamin Dyson. E-mail ‘Big picture’ ideas to [email protected]
What happens when you play ‘Chinese whispers’ with drawings? And what does this tell us about the nature of object recognition and perception? Following the work of Bartlett in the 1930s, psychologist Benjamin Dyson (Ryerson University, Ontario) investigated, in a collaboration with UK artist Rachel Cohen. In the study, published last year in Perception, the researchers got participants to copy images which were presented to them in either canonical viewpoint (their simplest and most familiar form), canonical view with a missing feature, or a non-canonical perspective. By the 19th copy, there was inevitable deterioration in the representation. When new participants were given these sets of images in reverse, they were quicker to correctly name the final image in a sequence derived from a canonical view.
‘We think that the relative lack of “top down” influence for the non-canonical images may result in more accurate copying,’ Dyson and Cohen say. ‘But with the canonical depictions, what is left is more caricature-like drawings, yielding consistent labelling at the expense of accurate copying.’
According to the researchers, this study makes it clear that the interaction between bottom-up and top-down processes can be translated from traditional paradigms to the unique domain of drawing. ‘This is a window onto how differences in perception and cognition are embodied and expressed.’
Cohen is now collaborating with Dr Julie Coultas, a psychologist at the University of Sussex: for more, see tinyurl.com/mythsmemes.

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