The Effect of Object Interpretation on the Appearance of Drawings of Ambiguous Figures

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We studied how the appearance of observational drawings is affected by how individuals interpret the model object they are copying. Participants were asked to draw 2 ambiguous figure models (Fisher’s Gypsy/Girl with Mirror and Man/Girl figures). Before being exposed to the models, participants were randomly assigned to receive 1 of the 2 possible interpretations of the figures during the task instructions. After all the drawings were completed, a group of independent judges rated the appearance of the drawings with respect to what object they thought the drawing was trying to depict. Analysis of the ratings indicated that the ambiguous figure interpretations provided to participants during the task instructions affected the ultimate appearance of their drawings. For the most part, participants’ drawings were biased to appear more like the object that was the subject of the interpretation they received during the task instructions than the alternative possible interpretation they did not receive. These results demonstrate that the categorization of model objects affects the ultimate appearance of drawings of that model. This supports the general perspective that top-down processes affect observational drawings beyond the bottom-up encoding of the visual information inherent in a model. The possible mechanisms producing this effect are discussed.

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