1990 Paper

In an attempt to determine whether a child's drawings might be useful in indicating his emotional state, a psychologist conducted the following pair of studies. She visited a class of 20 six-year-old schoolchildren on three successive days and on each day got them to draw a picture of a man ("George") shortly after hearing a story about him. On Day 1 George was merely an incidental figure in a story about someone else (the "neutral" condition); on Day 2 the story was about George the jolly postman (the "nice" condition); on Day 3 the story was about George the wicked ogre (the "nasty" condition). For each of the 20 drawings produced each day the psychologist measured the overall length of the figure and scored the number of details (eyes, fingers, clothes, etc) that were included.
The results (group means) were as follows:

Neutral(Day 1)Nice(Day 2)Nasty(Day3)
Figure length (cms)9.213.517.5
Number of features4.28.59.8

A within-subject analysis of variance conducted on the length scores revealed a significant difference among the three conditions, F (2,38) = 5.19, p < .05. A parallel analysis on the number-of-features scores similarly revealed a significant effect, F (2,38) = 3.96, p < .05. The psychologist concluded that a person having emotional significance for a child tends to be represented larger and in more detail in a drawing and that these effects are more marked when the person is associated with negative rather than positive emotions.

The psychologist was curious to see whether the size and detail of a drawing determined the perception of emotional significance as well as being an index of it. Since the original participants had already experienced the drawings 20 sixth-formers were recruited for a second study.

Each of these participants was presented with a pair of "nice" and "nasty" drawings that had been done by one of the children in the first study, each participant receiving a different pair of drawings. Participants were asked to choose which of the pair they liked best.
Their choices are shown below:

Number choosing:137

Since nearly twice as many participants chose the "nice" rather than the "nasty" drawing, it was concluded that the larger size and extra detail in the "nasty" drawings endowed them with negative emotional tone and made them less likely to be preferred.

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