Visual communication of object concepts at different levels of abstraction

Justin Yang, Judith E. Fan

People can produce drawings of specific entities (e.g., Garfield), as well as general categories (e.g., "cat"). What explains this ability to produce such varied drawings of even highly familiar object concepts? We hypothesized that drawing objects at different levels of abstraction depends on both sensory information and representational goals, such that drawings intended to portray a recently seen object preserve more detail than those intended to represent a category. Participants drew objects cued either with a photo or a category label. For each cue type, half the participants aimed to draw a specific exemplar; the other half aimed to draw the category. We found that label-cued category drawings were the most recognizable at the basic level, whereas photo-cued exemplar drawings were the least recognizable. Together, these findings highlight the importance of task context for explaining how people use drawings to communicate visual concepts in different ways.

Knowledge Graph

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