Cognitive Processing

, Volume 7, Supplement 1, pp 118–120 | Cite as

The influence of expertise level on the visuo-spatial ability: differences between experts and novices in imagery and drawing abilities

  • Lucia Calabrese
  • Francesco S. Marucci


This study analyzed the spatial skills of experts in visual art. Empirical evidences suggested that drawing training involves changes in perceptual, spatial and imagery abilities of artists. Several studies investigated cognitive abilities of individuals that carry on artistic activities comparing them with non-artists. These studies provided results indicating artists advantage in imagery processing. Studies on non-experts samples analyzed the relationship between imagery and artistic involvement and the contribution of cognitive and motor components in drawing ability. This study will explore imagery and drawing abilities of expert artists, adding to commonly used imagery performance tasks (objective tests of mental imagery), self-reports of imagery and various drawing tasks. We considered imagery ability as a multifactorial component and the drawing ability as dependent on both cognitive-perceptual and motor skills. The results showed that: (a) there were no significant differences between artists and non-artists on self-reported imagery vividness measures; (b) on imagery performance and drawing tasks the artists’ performance was undoubtedly superior compared to non-artists performance; (c) in the drawing conditions, involving different perceptual and motor processes, experts equally showed a better performance compared to non-expert subjects. These results were interpreted as an overall advantage in perceptual and imagery abilities for visual art experts, both on tasks involving graphic rendering (drawing tasks) and on tasks where it was not requested (imagery tasks). Furthermore, artists’ abilities were interpreted as not limited to a cognitive domain, but different cognitive-motor and essentially motor skills were equally relevant in expert’s drawing.


Expertise Individual differences Imagery Spatial ability Visual art 


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly

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