The effect of affective characterisations on the size of children's drawings

Burkitt, E.; Barrett, M. and Davis, A. (2003). The effect of affective characterisations on the size of children's drawings. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21(4) pp. 565–583.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1348/026151003322535228

URL: http://www.bps.org.uk/publications/journals/bjdp/b...

Abstract

Previous research has yielded conflicting findings about the existence and the direction of the size changes which occur in children's drawings when they are asked to draw topics which have been given an affective characterisation. The present study was designed to investigate whether children scale up the size of drawings of topics which have been given a positive characterisation, and scale down the size of drawings of topics which have been given a negative characterisation. Two hundred and fifty-eight children aged between 4 and 11 years completed three drawings of either a man, a dog or a tree. Each child drew a baseline drawing of a neutrally characterised figure, and two further drawings of a positively and a negatively characterised version of the same figure. It was found that the children drew the positively characterised topics larger than the neutrally characterised topics, and reduced the size of the negatively characterised topics relative to the baseline drawings. These patterns occurred at all ages and with all three drawing topics. Two possible explanations of the findings are discussed: the operation of an appetitive-defensive mechanism in children, and the acquisition of pictorial conventions.

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