Local processing enhancements associated with superior observational drawing are due to enhanced perceptual functioning, not weak central coherence

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2013;66(7):1448-66. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.750678. Epub 2012 Dec 13.


Individuals with drawing talent have previously been shown to exhibit enhanced local visual processing ability. The aim of the current study was to assess whether local processing biases associated with drawing ability result from a reduced ability to cohere local stimuli into global forms, or an increased ability to disregard global aspects of an image. Local and global visual processing ability was assessed in art students and controls using the Group Embedded Figures Task, Navon shape stimuli, the Block Design Task and the Autism Spectrum Quotient, whilst controlling for nonverbal IQ and artistic ability. Local processing biases associated with drawing appear to arise from an enhancement of local processing alongside successful filtering of global information, rather than a reduction in global processing. The relationship between local processing and drawing ability is independent of individual differences in nonverbal IQ and artistic ability. These findings have implications for bottom-up and attentional theories of observational drawing, as well as explanations of special skills in autism.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Art
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult