Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 243–257 | Cite as

Expressive Strategies in Drawing are Related to Age and Topic

  • Delphine Picard
  • Claire Brechet
  • René Baldy
Original Paper


In drawing, psychological mood can be denoted in a direct way (i.e., “literally”) through facial expression cues (e.g., a frowning face denotes sadness in a direct way), but it can also be connoted in an indirect way (i.e., “non-literally”) through figurative or non-figurative cues. This study examines how child and adult drawers selectively use literal and non-literal expressive strategies in accordance with the nature of the topic being depicted. In a between-subject design, 120 participants produced drawings of either a person or a house, in one of three versions: baseline, happy, and sad. The results indicated that drawers preferentially used literal expressive strategies for the person and non-literal strategies for the house. There was an increasing tendency between 7 and 11 years of age to express the drawn person’s mood non-literally in addition to literally. The positive correlation obtained between representational and expressive drawing ability suggests that enrichment of drawers’ graphic repertoire enhances their ability to draw expressively. Implications for clinical and educational practitioners are discussed.


Expressive strategies Children’s drawings Psychological mood 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.JE 2687 Department of PsychologyUniversity of Montpellier IIIMontpellierFrance

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