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Drawing Abilities of Children Tied to Later Intelligence

Aug 19, 2014 05:20 AM EDT
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Drawings might help predict later intelligence of a child, a new study suggests.

King's College London researchers say that drawing abilities at four years of age are tied to intelligence during teenage years.

Their study was based on data from 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical twins from the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). The team found that participants who scored high on "draw-a child-test" were more intelligent than their peers at 14 years of age.

Previous research has shown that young children who draw a good sketch of a small child have better cognitive skills than other children. However, they were surprised that the test is tied to intelligence even a decade later.

In the "draw-a child-test", the participants are expected to give a fair representation of face, hands and limbs of a young child. Participants who failed to get the basic features right such as eyes and nose get lower points than those who draw the exact number of eyes, nose, hands and legs.

Note that the researchers have found a moderate correlation between drawing abilities and intelligence and not a cause-and-effect relationship.

"Our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly. Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life," said Rosalind Arden, lead author of the paper from the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.

The researchers also found that drawing abilities have a strong genetic link. The study obtained data from both identical and non-identical twins. In general, figure drawings of identical twins closely resembled each other than drawings of non-identical twins.

The study results don't mean that there is a "drawing gene", researchers say. A child's drawing ability is associated with his/her intelligence, observational skills and cognitive abilities.

"Drawing is an ancient behaviour, dating back beyond 15,000 years ago. Through drawing, we are attempting to show someone else what's in our mind. This capacity to reproduce figures is a uniquely human ability and a sign of cognitive ability, in a similar way to writing, which transformed the human species' ability to store information, and build a civilisation," said Arden in a news release.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

Does drawing abilities really translate into higher intelligence? Plenty of smart and intelligent people fail to graduate beyond stick figures, while those with impressive drawing skills might not always have perfect scores on intelligence tests. Other researchers have found that some people have innate ability to see the world as it really is and so they can accurately draw an image of an object. Others, however, see the world as their brain makes them see it. Human brain constantly edits information from the eyes to make sense of the world.

People who can't draw needn't worry as several research papers have shown that practise can make people improve their drawing skills.

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