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Working Paper 131

Working Paper 131

Cultural Influences and Visualisation: what can we tell from drawings?

Jaroslava Bagdasarova and Kirill Istomin

Siberian Studies Centre

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Working Paper 131

Drawing on recent culture-psychological and cognitive studies on visual perception and processing, this article aims to show how anthropology can benefit from and make a contribution to the study of visual representations. As opposed to common approaches in anthropology, which focus on semantics and content of visual representations, the authors of this study turn the attention from content to the problem of form. The study of form(s) of visual representations provides additional, possibly new, ways how to grasp normally latent, verbally mute, and unreflected aspects of human experience. Furthermore, if culture-psychological findings are correct and the form of visual representations is an indicator of culturally induced cognitive style, and thus of self-construal in a given cultural context, then the study of form of visual representations may well lead to inquiries in how different social and cultural context influences people’s visual thinking and representation. Assuming that the form of visual representations differs from one cultural context to another, the authors address the problem of how to relate the difference in cultural and social practices with the differences in cognition and visualisation. As empirical evidence serves, on the one hand, the authors’ analysis of drawings made by children in Siberia, and, on the other hand, their recent quantitative pilot study that assessed the perceptual processing and the style of children drawing in the far north of Russia. The article reports on the procedure, findings, and theoretical and methodological conclusions of this study and offers some insights for further research.

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