Do artists truly see the world differently than others?

Art historians, artists, psychologists, and neuroscientists have long asserted that artists perceive the world differently than nonartists. Although empirical research on the nature and correlates of skilled drawing is limited, the available evidence supports this view: artists outperform nonartists on visual analysis and form recognition tasks and their perceptual advantages are correlated with and can be largely accounted for by drawing skill. The authors propose an integrative model to explain these results, derived from research in psychology and cognitive neuroscience on how category knowledge, attention, and motor plans influence visual perception. The authors claim that (a) artists’ specialized, declarative knowledge of the structure of objects’ appearances and (b) motor priming achieved via proceduralization and practice in an artistic medium both contribute to attention-shifting mechanisms that enhance the encoding of expected features in the visual field and account for artists’ advantages in drawing and visual analysis. Suggestions for testing the model are discussed.

Source: “Integrating art historical, psychological, and neuroscientific explanations of artists’ advantages in drawing and perception.” from Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Vol 1(2), May 2007, 80-90.

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