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Figu and B

efore easily uld in theor e specific ex informatio familiar wo scene.

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Then the boy was given unlimited access to pictorial materials (but still no televi-sion) for a month, while instruction or naming games were avoided at all cost. The boy himself, however, frequently named pictures. A second set of 19 pictures, of which 10 were line-drawings, were given in the same procedure as before (fig. 4, right, p. 32). This time a drawn shoe and a spoon proved difficult, as well as two photographs, of which one had proved difficult in the previous set as well. This was a small photograph of his mother’s cut-out head. Identification of two perspective drawings of transparent “boxes” yielded a mixed interpretation from interraters.

Although a small dataset was used, the pictorial innocence of the child uncertain, and the procedure unclear, the experiment shows that a child that has not been ex-plicitly interacted with in a pictorial context can still quite readily identify both pho-tographs and drawings of a certain kind. Adult competence might just be a larger set of resources and experience in this regard.

It is important to note that the line-drawings used in the study have been traced from photographs and thus retain the silhouettes of real objects. The exception is perhaps the duck, unless it is traced from a photograph of a bathtub duck, in which case it is a spot-on carbon copy. These line-drawings highlight both shape and sali-ent interior properties. There is no report on whether the child manually investi-gated the pictures, hinting about his ideas about their nature, but given his age it is not unlikely that he did (Callaghan et al., 2004). There are many other types of pictorial abstractions that would perhaps not be as accessible to a naïve picture viewer. A larger dataset, with a bit of variation, would have been most enlightening, although it would of course be impossible to say exactly which transformations were problematic. This is because of the different impact of different transformations in different pictures. A shadow might mean everything in one particular picture, for a particular viewer, while being redundant in another picture or for another viewer.20 The choice of response, i.e. the reliance on naming in a young child, also makes straightforward conclusions difficult. The fact that dolls, cars and keys were chosen as stimuli was probably because the boy could name these objects. If the experi-menter asks “what is this?” regarding a picture, this is a drill similar to one that the child has gone through countless of times with objects. The child perhaps realises the similarity between these experiences and maps the pictures to a limited set from its vocabulary, rather than to the visual universe at large. Keys, cars, and dolls, among other drilled objects, are then in a privileged position for comparison with the pictorial versions.21 The Hochberg and Brooks (1962) study demands replica-tion. If it is unethical to deny human children social interaction around pictures, perhaps nonhuman animals can help us shine some light on these issues. But let us first take a look at cross-cultural research, with a special focus on inabilities to rec-ognise depicted objects and events.

20 Iconicity is always subjective.

21 The same potential problem occurs when a child is required to match a picture to an array of objects when objects and pictures are visible at the same time, or when verbally asked to find a par-ticular picture among other pictures. The situation sets up a context that narrows down the number of interpretations that are probable.

Chapter 3

Cross-cultural research

Claims are sometimes made that natives in exotic lands cannot recognise pictures, flee in terror when watching a film, or wonder how their child got into a piece of paper. What is the factual basis for such stories? What does adult pictorial compe-tence look like when the person has no previous experience of pictures? This ques-tion is relevant from a comparative perspective because apes are not human children.

All sources that can help us see what pictures mean to the naïve eye are potentially helpful in understanding the requirements for pictorial competence. A picture is a constructed object. The image has travelled e.g. thru a camera lens, or thru the mus-cles of a painter, so to speak, and ended up on a surface. Sometimes one must know something about this process to be able to perceive the content of a picture with precision. Techniques for perspective rendering, shading, etc., often contain tional aspects, which one gets familiar to with experience. That said, some tions are superfluous for recognition, and some techniques that would seem conven-tional at first glance are in fact based on everyday perception. Nevertheless, the process of recognition can look very different depending on one’s experience with a particular type of picture.

If indeed there is cultural variation in picture perception we can conclude that picture specific experience, and not language alone or general human intelligence, is all-important for recognition of the content of a picture, and furthermore that a pic-ture is a picpic-ture. However, few studies have been primarily concerned with the abil-ity to perceive pictures as pictures. When it has been found, for example, that some people can decode photographs but not drawings, it has been deduced that drawings are just poor examples for naïve subjects. Yes, they are poor examples, but I will ar-gue below that this is not only attributable to experience of conventional techniques, but is in some cases due to the fact that such pictures require a different mode of picture processing than does the typical photograph.