I’ve been reading several research papers lately with drawing as a task, and it’s gotten me riled up enough that it’s time for a rant thread. The short of it: Stop treating drawing as if there are no systems, no conventions, and that it’s an unmediated link to visual concepts 1/
First off, drawing is a complex cognitive activity involving numerous subsystems, not some direct pathway from perception (or visual imagery) to motor control as is assumed when using drawing in clinical contexts 2/
Drawings are not direct pathways to visual concepts, because they require a “visual vocabulary” to be learned and developed. People who “can’t draw” simply have not developed an extensive vocabulary 3/ karger.com/Article/Fullte…
Linguists have had intense, heated debates about the connections of language and thought… and yet drawing is somehow assumed as a direct, unmediated link to visual concepts? 4/
Here’s a paper that used a drawing task claiming that participants “created a novel communication system” to thus study “Universal principles of human communication” while also comparing Japanese and “Western” drawers 5/
Yet ironically to study these “universal” traits, they do a drawing task with Japanese and “Western” drawers— cultures which we know have different conventionalized drawing systems! 6/
You can even see this in the figures: When asked to draw “cartoon” and the Japanese participants drew a comic page which even conformed to conventions of manga layouts! 7/
None of these papers that use drawing as tasks cite any models or background research justifying their attitudes towards drawing itself, despite there being such a literature across psychology and development 8/ routledge.com/Making-Sense-o…
In fact, not only are the use of these tasks based on common sense beliefs, the foundations of these assumptions have been discredited by myself and other researchers 9/
I made a similar argument about the fluency required of sequential visual narratives, meaning that research using them uncritically may be confounded, whether about narrative, temporal, social, or sequential cognition 10/
All of this is to say: drawing and visual communication is more complex than you think, and if they are used in science, they should be treated with the same rigor and respect as other human behaviors like language 11/
It is amazing that there is no consolidated field within the cognitive sciences to study drawing and visuals on par with (psycho)linguistics, which is a stunning way to indicate the low regard with which we treat the most species-specific behavior of human expression

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More from @visual_linguist

1 Jan
The Calvin and Hobbes comic strip ended 25 years ago, so let’s celebrate a New Years treat by analyzing it! Awhile back I had a students annotate structures in every C&H strip, so we have data on the whole thing. As Calvin says: let’s go exploring! 1/ gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes Image
An interesting feature of this strip is that Watterson took a few sabbaticals during its run, and came back with more artistic freedom. So, I’ll focus here on how a few aspects of the strip change over time. Here’s what every panel per strip looks like (all 14,712 panels!) 2/ Image
Let’s start with storytelling. Overall, the strip shifts to becoming more visual and multimodality balanced in meaning over time. In this graph, higher numbers mean more meaning carried by pictures than words (0=balanced) 3/ ImageImage
Read 12 tweets
22 Jan 18
A few days ago @matt_thorn_en had an excellent thread about layouts in manga. Here I want to expand on that, from the perspective of cognition and psychology. It may surprise people, but there’s been actual science done on the rules of #comics page layouts…
As explained in that thread, manga readers use meeting points between panels to signal whether to read horizontally or vertically. These are cued by "T" shapes or "+" shapes between panels
As described in my book and some papers, these panel junctions do indeed give readers layout cues, and we've articulated these rules explicitly. But, they are just the to deeper strategies... visuallanguagelab.com/vloc.html
Read 19 tweets

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