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Children's picture interpretation: the role of artist intention

Research output: Contribution to conferenceSpeech


Publication date7/09/2012
<mark>Original language</mark>English


ConferenceBPS Developmental Section Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom


Pictures represent real world objects and are thus symbolic. What factors do children use to decipher the picture-referent relationship? Some theorists argue that children interpret pictures according to how perceptually similar they are to their referents, termed the realist route. Others contend that children follow the intentional route, taking into consideration what the artist intended the picture to represent. These hypotheses were investigated in two studies, in which the level of conflict between appearance and intentional cues was varied. Children aged 4-6 were presented with four trials, each involving 3- object arrays (e.g. a pink duck, a blue duck and a teddy). The experimenter photographed or drew one of the objects (e.g. blue duck). Due to a ‘printer error’ or using the ‘wrong’ colour crayon, the final picture depicted the referent in greyscale (black and white condition) or the colour of its shape-matched object, e.g. a pink duck (colour change condition). Children were asked three questions regarding the identity of the pictures. Children’s responses were guided by intentional cues in the black and white condition, but appearance in the colour change condition. Overall, picture interpretation is dependent upon the level of cue conflict between picture and referent, and question type.