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Rebecca Chamberlain, Johan Wagemans; Visual and cognitive flexibility in artists. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):423. https://doi.org/10.1167/16.12.423.
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A growing amount of evidence suggests that artists have perceptual abilities which help them to achieve a range of depictive goals. Two sources exist to explain these perceptual abilities: bottom-up strategies that imply the existence of an 'innocent eye' (Ruskin, 1871) and top-down strategies that reflect stored representational schemas (Gombrich, 1960). The potential conflict between bottom-up and top-down strategies can be resolved if it is assumed that artists switch dynamically between perceptual representations in order to meet varying artistic task demands (Lou, 2015; Ostrofsky et al., 2012). However, there is little empirical research that tests this claim. An existing study showed that artists are better able to switch between global and local levels of visual stimuli (Chamberlain & Wagemans, 2015). The aim of the current study was to test artists' ability to switch between competing global perceptual representations in bistable figures. A sample of art-students (n=30) and non-art students (n=33) completed a series of drawing and perceptual tasks. Executive tasks testing inhibitory and switching abilities were also included to explore the cognitive corollaries of perceptual flexibility. It was found that artists were better able to switch between competing representations in bistable figures when asked to actively manipulate their representations. Artists' passive switch rates for bistable figures were no different from controls. Artists also showed a reduced switch cost in an executive function task although perceptual and cognitive flexibility were not correlated in the current study. These data demonstrate that artists possess the ability to selectively attend to different perceptual representations, providing support for the proposition that artists engage in different perceptual modes when creating works of art.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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