Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Children's Scribbling and The Invention of Writing

"Only one thing is certain - that written language of children develops in this fashion, shifting from drawings of things to drawings of words. The entire secret of teaching written language is to prepare and organize this natural transition appropriately...Make believe play, drawing and writing can be viewed as different moments in an essentially unified program of development of written language...The discontinuities and jumps from one mode of activity to the other are too great for the relationship to seem evident." Lev Vygotsky, "The Prehistory of Writing," an essay, c. 1930

Basic Scribbles

From the book Analyzing Children’s Art, 1969, written by Rhoda Kellog.

According to Catherine Baily in The Development Of Children’s Drawings and Paintings :

I have observed that every child uses many of these scribbles in his/her early drawings and that each child also has their favorites.

In general, the first outlined shape that children make is circular, and Thomas and Silk quoted Arnheim (1956) writing that “the first enclosed form made by children—the “primordial circle”—appears to be able to stand for almost any object from the child’s environment” (35). It is with this beginning of closed shapes, with the circle that can stand for anything, that most children then move on to more complex shapes and then eventually representational objects.

In the full-fledged Diagram stage, children begin to draw six different Diagrams, those being the rectangle, the oval, the triangle, the Greek cross, the diagonal cross, and the odd shape. Developmentally, “the Diagrams indicate an increasing ability to make a controlled use of lines and to employ memory” (Kellogg 45).
Kellogg and O’Dell note that “almost from the moment they are able to draw shapes in outline form, children begin to combine these forms into designs” (43). With just these two examples of children moving from outlined shapes to designs it is clear that this progression is not only a speedy one, but that it also occurs naturally without any outside guidance.

Maybe scribbling practices and entoptic experiences encouraged the formation of a different eye-span, which became specialized in tracking forms within forms, and consequently led to the invention of writing.

1. Free examination
2. Estimate material circumstances
3. Give the ages of the people
4. Surmise what the family had been doing befoe the arrival of the unexpected visitor
5. Remember the clothes worn by the people
6. Remember positions of people and objects in the room
7. Estimate how long the visitor had been away from the family

In the 1950s, Alfred L. Yarbus* did important eye tracking research and his 1967 book, Eye Movements and
Vision, is one of the most quoted eye tracking publications ever. For example he showed the task given to a subject has a very large influence on the subject's eye movements. He also wrote about the relation between
fixations and interest:

"All the records (…) show conclusively that the character of the eye movements is either completely independent of or only very slightly dependent on the material of the picture and how it was made, provided
that it is flat or nearly flat." The cyclical pattern in the examination of pictures "is dependent not only on
what is shown on the picture, but also on the problem facing the observer and the information that he hopes to gain from the picture."

*Alfred L. Yarbus was a Russian psychologist who studied eye movements in the 1950s and 1960s.

According to Hoffman, current consensus is that visual attention is always slightly (100 to 250 ms) ahead of the eye. But as soon as attention moves to a new position, the eyes will want to follow.

We still cannot infer specific cognitive processes directly from a fixation on a particular object in a scene. For
instance, a fixation on a face in a picture may indicate recognition, liking, dislike, puzzlement etc. Therefore eye tracking is often coupled with other methodologies, such as introspective verbal protocols.

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