2010. Vol.1, No.5, 329-336
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2010.15042
Children’s Judgments and Feelings about Their Own Drawings
Fotini Bonoti1, Panayiota Metallidou2
1Department of Preschool Education, University of Thessaly, Thessaly, Greece;
2Shcool of Psychology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessalon ik i, Greece.
Received September 30th, 2010; revised November 18th, 2010; accepted No vember 19th, 2010.
The aim of the present study was to investigate possible age differences in drawing performance of preschool
and primary school children, as well as in metacognitive experiences that are activated before and after the
drawing process. The study is comprised of 222 children of both genders, aged from 4 to 12. They were tested
individually in their schools. They were asked to produce four drawings, which vary on their level of complexity,
and to rate before each drawing on a four-point scale the frequency of drawing similar themes and their feeling
of difficulty. After the drawing they were asked to estimate again the difficulty they felt as well as the feeling of
liking the drawing they produced and the correctness of the drawing. The results of a series of analyses of va-
riance confirmed the expected improvement of drawing performance with age. There wasn’t found, however, the
same developmental course in the case of metacognitive experiences. On the contrary, there was found a signif-
icant decrease in the feeling of liking and the estimation of correctness of the drawings, especially after the
second grade.
Keywords: Children’s Drawing, Metacogn itive Experiences
In general, children’s drawings have been investigated from
an adult’s perspective (Thomas & Silk, 1990). Little is known
about children’s evaluation of their own pictorial productions
and that of others. Children's subjective experiences regarding
their own drawings is a topic largely neglected in the research
literature. While it is considered difficult from a methodologi-
cal point of view to study children's verbal reactions to draw-
ings (Freeman, 1980), such an investigation may be promising.
Only a limited body of research has attempted to investigate
children’s understanding of the developmental changes that
emerge in their drawings (Cox & Hodsoll, 2000; Thyphon &
Montagnero, 1992). In this research tradition emphasis was
placed on children’s diachronic thinking, that is children’s
understanding about the way their drawings change as the
drawer gets older.
Another body of research attempted to investigate childrens
judgments about drawings (Hart & Goldin-Meadow, 1984;
Itskowitz, Glaubman, & Hoffman, 1988; Taylor & Bacharach,
1981). These attempts can be characterized more as studies
involving selection tasks in which children were asked to
choose the ‘best’ drawing, rather than studies examining child-
ren's actual thoughts or preferences about drawings. Therefore,
they do not provide sufficient evidence about the relationship
between childrens own efforts and their subjective experiences.
For example, the data concerning whether children are satisfied
with their own drawings are controversial. Some researchers
claim that children are satisfied with their own drawings
(Brooks, Glenn, & Crozier, 1988; Moore, 1986; Taylor & Ba-
charach, 1981), while others suggest that children prefer draw-
ings that they fail to produce; that is, depictions which are de-
velopmentally advanced (Goodnow, Wilkins, & Dawes, 1986;
Hart & Goldin-Meadow, 1984; Itskowitz et al., 1988). In addi-
tion, contradictory evidence comes from past studies based on
observation. Some studies report that children are satisfied with
their own drawings (Hurlock & Thomson, 1934) while others
report that they are not (Mann & Lehman, 1976).
In a more recent study, Jolley, Knox and Foster (2000) used
a selection task in order to investigate the relationship between
children’s production and comprehension of realism in draw-
ings. They argued that the controversial findings of previous
studies were probably due to the ambiguous instructions given
to children (to choose the “best” drawing of an array of draw-
ings). In order to avoid the possible confusion of emotional and
cognitive components that such an instruction implies, they
attempted to give more precise instructions. More specifically,
they attempted to investigate children’s comprehension of real-
ism (‘which drawing looks most like a real object’), preference
(‘which do you like the most’) and estimation of their own
drawing ability (‘which looks most like your drawings’). Mo-
reover, they used as selection stimuli children’s actual drawings
and not the adult versions of children’s pictorial representations
that previous researchers have incorporated in their studies.
They found that children preferred more advanced drawings
than the ones they could produce themselves and that young
drawers overestimated their skills in contrast to older subjects
who gave more accurate self-evaluations.
A similar finding is also reported by Golomb and Helmund
(1987) who attempted to explore preschoolers’ attitudes toward
their drawings, through the investigation of their thoughts and
feelings about the activity, the medium and the mode of repre-
sentation. They found that regardless of the medium (paints or
crayons) used, children were satisfied with their own produc-
tions. For example, most children seemed surprised when asked
about altering something in their drawing. Further, when asked
if there was anything they could do to make it better, only a few
children accepted that they could improve it. Similar results
were obtained by Sullivan’s study as cited in Golomb (1992)
with six- and seven year olds, who claimed that they would not
make alterations in their drawings.
Attempting to interpret young children’s unwillingness to re-
vise their drawing, Golomb (1992) suggested that there is a
relative stability in a child’s drawing style. She argued that
young children tend to repeat the satisfying graphic schemas
and to perfect them gradually. This interpretation reminds van
Sommers’ (1983) ‘graphic conservatism’, a term proposed to
describe children’s tendency to repeat established visual for-
mulas: once a drawing strategy has been acquired, further de-
velopment most usually takes the form of adding detail and
embellishing the drawing rather than revising its basic form.
The above mentioned gradual improvement of drawings led
to explanations of drawing development which imply the in-
volvement of subjective experience during the drawing process.
For example, it has been suggested that “something inside the
child induces change” (Cox, 1992. p. 47). In other words,
changes in drawing can be regarded as positive, self-motivated
actions in an attempt to produce better pictorial representations.
Moreover, Willats (1995) suggested that the process of drawing
development could be seen as a result of a series of interactions
between production and the child’s perception of his/her own
depictions. According to him, children change their drawings in
order to get them to look better. One stage persists until the
child becomes displeased with the drawing system he currently
uses, considering it as an insufficiently good representation.
Consequently, he adopts a new denotation system, which again
results in a drawing that does not look correct. The whole de-
velopmental process goes on, following the same pattern.
This child-task interaction has recently gained a lot of inter-
est among researchers in the research tradition of metacognition.
There is a growing body of empirical evidence as regards
children’s subjective experience when they are confronted with
the demands of specific tasks. In this tradition subjective expe-
rience has been studied through metacognitive experiences
(Efklides, 2001, 2006; Efklides & Vauras, 1999; Flavell, 1979).
Following Flavell’s influential distinction between metacogni-
tive knowledge and metacognitive experiences, metacognitive
experiences consist of online metacognitive knowledge, ideas,
and feelings the child experiences as the task processing goes
on. They emerge before, during, and/or after a cognitive enter-
prise and have a dual character, both cognitive and affective.
Metacognitive feelings are affectively charged and vary along
the scale of pleasant-unpleasant (Efklides, 2001, 2006). Exam-
ples are the feeling of liking (Asghar, 1987), of familiarity
(Whittlesea, 1993), of difficulty (Efklides, Papadaki, Papanto-
niou, & Kiosseoglou, 1997, 1998; Touroutoglou & Efklides,
2010), and of satisfaction with the solution produced (Efklides
& Petkaki, 2005; Metallidou & Efklides, 1998). Metacognitive
judgments are cognitive in nature. They serve the monitoring
function during the cognitive processing, such as the estimate
of correctness of the solution and of frequency of previous en-
counters with similar problems. They can also serve the control
function, such as the estimate of the amount of effort needed in
order to cope with the demands of the task (Koriat &
Levy-Sadot, 1999; Nelson, 1993). Metacognitive experiences,
thus, are a kind of an intrinsic feedback for the system (Efklides
& Dina, 2004). Their relation with cognitive performance is
small and in most cases indirect, since they are influenced not
only by task features (e.g., task difficulty or previous expe-
riences with the task) (Akama, 2007) but by cognitive ability
and motivational factors (e.g., test-anxiety, need to achieve, and
self-concept) as well. They reflect, thus, a personal interpreta-
tion of the current task or the achievement situation, since they
are the products of a dynamic interplay between the task de-
mands and the person’s cognitive and motivational resources to
meet these demands (Akama, 2006).
Despite the increasing interest in investigating the nature and
formation of metacognitive experiences as well as their relation
to cognitive performance, the extant evidence is limited in do-
mains of thought that are clearly related to problem-solving and
school performance, such as performance in mathematics,
physics, and language (Dermitzaki & Efklides, 2001; Efklides,
et al., 1997, 1998; Gonida, Kiosseoglou, & Psillos, 2003).
Moreover, the sample in most studies is mainly young adoles-
cents (students in the first grades of secondary school) and few
studies examine the formation of metacognitive experiences in
primary school children (Metallidou, 2003) and preschool
children (Gonida, Efklides, & Kiosseoglou, 2003).
As regards the development of metacognitive experiences,
they do not follow the same developmental pattern with cogni-
tive abilities. As mentioned above, they constitute complex,
subjective constructs (Dermitzaki & Efklides, 2001; Efklides,
Samara, & Pertopoulou, 1999; Metallidou & Efklides, 1998)
and the strength of the effect of age on metacognitive expe-
riences depends on the type of the task and its objective diffi-
culty (Gonida, Efklides, & Kiosseoglou, 2003). In general,
young children tend to overestimate the correctness of their
perfor mance and they usually refer low feelings of difficulty
and high feelings of confidence (Gonida, Efklides, & Kios-
seoglou, 2003; Metallidou, 2003). As children get older, their
self-evaluations become more accurate since they are familia-
rized with the demands of various tasks and receive feedback
from their own performance and from the evaluations of signif-
icant others (Eccles, Wigfield, Harold, & Blumenfeld, 1993;
Newman & Wick, 1987; Phillips & Zimmerman, 1990; Stipek
& MacIver, 1989).
The Present Study
Research on metacognitive experiences is still a growing re-
search area (Efklides, 2001, 2002b, 2006), while evidence re-
garding children’s own reports on their drawing ability is lim-
ited (Golomb & Helmund, 1987; Jolley et al., 2000). The focus
of the present study was to provide empirical evidence for the
development of metacognitive experiences in the domain of
drawing. We believe that such research could extend our
knowledge about the formation of subjective experience and the
mechanism that gives rise to it. As far as we know, the domain
of drawing has not been studied yet within the research tradi-
tion of metacognition. Further, current approaches in this do-
main emphasize the importance of the drawing process, imply-
ing thus the significant role of subjective experience. We ex-
amined preschool and primary school children, that is, children
aged 4 to 12 years. During this period children produce repre-
sentational drawings and present an increasing drawing ability
as their age increases (Cox, 1992; Jolley, 2010; Luquet, 1913;
Piaget & Inhelder, 1956). We used drawing tasks that varied in
their level of complexity; that is, tasks requiring the depiction
of (a) a familiar object and (b) the spatial arrangement of two
objects in a scene.
As regards metacognitive experiences, we included feelings
and estimates which were evoked before and after the produc-
tion of each drawing. Specifically, children were asked to esti-
mate before each drawing (a) the frequency of drawing similar
tasks and (b) their feeling of difficulty of the task, while after
the drawing (c) again their feeling of difficulty, (d) the estimate
of correctness of each drawing, and finally, (e) their feeling of
liking the drawing they had produced.
Feeling of difficulty was included in both phases since ac-
cording to previous empirical data (Efklides, 2002b; Efklides et
al., 1999) is a very dynamic feeling, the intensity of which
changes in a micro-level during cognitive processing. Also, it is
a very crucial aspect of subjective experience during self-regu-
lation in achievement settings since it stands at the junction of
monitoring and control processes. On the one hand, it monitors
the lack of processing fluency and informs the person about the
interruption of cognitive processing. On the other hand, when
this processing is interrupted, it triggers control decisions, such
as increasing effort expenditure or the application of the proper
strategies (Alter, Oppenheimer, Epley, & Eyre, 2007; Tourou-
toglou & Efklides, 2010).
In accordance with the existing research evidence, we hy-
pothesized that children’s drawing performance would improve
with age (Hypothesis 1). Metacognitive experiences, however,
would not be expected to follow the same developmental pat-
tern, since they were found to be affected by the type of the
tasks and their level of complexity (Hypothesis 2). Specifically,
the respective age differences were not expected to be as large
as in the case of performance, since, according to previous evi-
dence, very young children tend to overestimate the correctness
of their performance and to report high feelings of satisfaction
and low feelings of difficulty in achieving the task (Gonida,
Efklides, & Kiosseoglou, 2003). The improvement of perfor-
mance, however, as the age increases, is accompanied with
more positive estimates of correctness and feelings of satisfac-
tion as well as with lower feelings of difficulty in completing
the task (Metallidou & Efklides, 1998). It was expected, then,
whenever there was an age-related difference, for older children
to report lower feelings of difficulty and higher feelings of lik-
ing and estimates of frequency and correctness as compared to
younger ones. Further, the feeling of difficulty was expected to
differentiate between the two phases (before and after the
drawing) (Hypothesis 3). Finally, it was expected that the level
of task complexity would affect children’s metacognitive expe-
riences, (Hypothesis 4). Specifically, they would report higher
estimates of frequency and of correctness as well as higher
feelings of liking and lower feelings of difficulty regarding the
simple tasks as compared to their reports for the complex tasks.
Met ho d
222 preschool and primary school children participated in the
study aged from 4 to 12 years. 40 preschool children, 69 second
grade, 65 fourth grade, and 48 sixth grade students. Gender was
about equally represented in the sample (Girls = 100 and Boys
= 122). Schools were located at the city of Volos in Greece.
Task and Procedure
Drawing Tasks
All children were tested individually in their school. They
were asked to complete four different drawing tasks. Precisely,
they were asked to depict two simple favorite topics (“a man”
and “a house”) and two scenes in which one of the objects was
partially occluded by another (“a man inside a boat” and “a tree
in front of a house”). For each drawing task the child was given
a white sheet of paper and a pencil.
Metacognitive Experiences
They were measured before and after each drawing task. Be-
fore each drawing children were asked to rate on a four-point
scale (1: not at all, 2: a little, 3: some, 4: very) first, the fre-
quency of drawing similar themes (e.g., how often do you draw
people?) and, second, their feeling of difficulty (e.g., how diffi-
cult do you think it is to draw a man?). After the drawing they
were asked to estimate again the difficulty they had felt (e.g.,
how difficult was it to draw the man?) as well as the feeling of
liking the drawing they had produced (e.g., how much do you
like the drawing you did?) and the correctness of this drawing
(e.g., how correct do you think you have drawn the man?).
Scoring Criteria of Drawings
Each drawing task was assessed using a 1-4 scale of assess-
ment. The scoring criteria used in the present study were de-
rived from previous empirical data which propose a concrete
developmental pattern in the depiction of the topics under ex-
amination (Cox, 1992; DiLeo, 1983; Freeman, 1980; Moore,
1986). More explicitly, in the “man” task a score of 1 was ad-
ministered when a tadpole figure that depicts a circle to which
the limbs are attached or the stick-figure was drawn, a score
of 2 was given when a conventional figure in which the limbs
were represented with single lines was drawn, a score of 3
when the conventional figure was drawn with limbs depicted
with double lines and a score of 4 was given when the man was
drawn with a continuous outline. In the “house” task a score of
1 was administered when the main schema of the house was
drawn, a score of 2 when the defining features of the house
were depicted inappropriately (that is the windows attached to
the sides or the chimney perpendicular to the roof), a score of 3
when the above mentioned features were depicted correctly and
a score of 4 was given for the three-dimensional depiction of
the house. In the “man inside a boat” task a score of 1 was
administered when the whole body of the man was depicted
inside the boat, a score of 2 was given for a transparency draw-
ing that is when the body or/and the legs of the man could be
seen through the boat, a score of 3 when the man was depicted
standing on the boat and a score of 4 when the man was drawn
inside the boat in a visually realistic way. In the “tree in front
of a house” task a score of 1 was administered when the tree
and the house were arranged side by side, a score of 2 when the
two objects were depicted vertically on the scene, a score of 3
when a transparency was produced (i.e. the house could be seen
through the tree) and a score of 4 was given when the partial
occlusion drawn scene was visually realistic.
All of the drawings produced were scored independently by
two judges, using the above mentioned scoring criteria. Agree-
ment between the two raters ranged from 90 to 96 percent.
In order to test our hypotheses, we, firstly, created a two-
level variable as regards the complexity level of the dra wing
tasks. Specifically, the tasks of “drawing a man” and of “draw-
ing a house” comprised the simple tasks and the tasks of
“drawing a man in a boat” and of “drawing a tree in front of a
house”, the complex ones. We, then, produced a series of
ANOVAs with the task complexity level as a within-subject
variable and age (4) and gender (2) as between-subjects va-
riables. Mean performance scores in drawing tasks (2 scores)
and mean ratings in metacognitive experiences (5 scores) were
the dependent variables. Effect size for each paired comparison
was estimated by eta squared (η2). Eta squared values of .01, .06,
and .15, represent small, medi um and large effect sizes respec-
tively (Green, Salkind, & Akey, 2000).
Drawing Performance: Age had a significant and very large
effect, F (3, 213) = 38.61, p < .001, η2 = .35. The respective
means and standard deviations are given in Table 1. As pre-
dicted, older children outperformed younger children. Post hoc
Tukey test revealed that differences between age groups were
significant among all pairs (M = 2.09 for preschool children, M
= 2.81 for 2nd grade, M = 3.08 for 4th grade, and M = 3.42 for
6th grade). Main effects of gender [F(1, 213) = 3.48, p > .05]
and of task complexity factor [F(1, 213) = 1.50, p > .05] were
non-significant, but this result is qualified by the fact that
gender interacted with task complexity, F(1, 213) = 5.65, p
< .05, η2 = .03. The effect size, however, was small and further
analyses at the item level showed that girls outperformed boys
only in the simple drawing tasks [M = 2.96 (girls), M = 2.68
(boys) in the simple tasks and M = 2.90 (girls) and M = 2.87
(boys) in the complex tasks). Age x task complexity interaction
was found non-significant, F(3, 213) = .21, p > .05.
Estimations of Frequency: Task complexity [F(1, 214) =
970.42, p < .001, η2 = .82] had a very large, significant main
effect. Children’s frequency estimations were significantly
higher for the simple tasks as compared to those for the com-
plex ones. The main effects of age [F(3, 214) = 3.99, p < .01,
η2 = .05] as well as the age x task complexity interaction [F(3,
214) = 3.02, p < .05, η2 = .04] were significant, though with
small to medium effect sizes. Further analysis at the Univariate
level revealed that age had a significant effect only in the case
of simple drawing tasks, F(1, 221) = 5.31, p < .005, η2 = .07.
Tukey’s post hoc test revealed that 2nd gr aders gave signifi-
cantly higher estimations of frequency in drawing the simple
tasks as compared to 6th graders. Gender [F(1, 214) = 3.08,
p > .05] and gender by task complexity level [F(1, 214) = 1.91,
p > .05] were found non-significant.
Table 1.
Means and (standard deviations) of drawing performance and metacognitive experiences along age and task complexity .
Preschool 2nd grade 4th grade 6th grade
Simple tasks
Drawing performance 2.08
(.54) 2.77
(.69) 3.01
(.62) 3.42
Estimation of Frequency 3.27
(.70) 3.43
(.59) 3.25
(.67) 2.95
Feeling of Difficulty (before) 1.22
(.47) 1.37
(.56) 1.42
(.44) 1.47
Feeling of difficulty (after) 1.28
(.51) 1.27
(.49) 1.35
(.41) 1.42
Feeling of Liking 3.92
(.24) 3.80
(.36) 3.34
(.64) 2.71
Estimation of Correctness 3.85
(.33) 3.55
(.54) 3.19
(.66) 2.82
Complex tasks
Drawing performance 2.11
(.81) 2.84
(.73) 3.15
(.77) 3.43
Estimation of Frequency 1.44
(.52) 1.57
(.64) 1.43
(.55) 1.48
Feeling of Difficulty (before) 2.01
(.89) 2.18
(.91) 2.29
(.82) 2.31
Feeling of difficulty (after) 1.59
(.58) 1.63
(.62) 1.72
(.74) 1.82
Feeling of Liking 3.79
(.41) 3.61
(.50) 3.25
(.80) 2.78
Estimation of Correctness 3.70
(.47) 3.49
(.65) 3.15
(.77) 2.70
Feelings of Difficulty before drawing: Only task complexity
factor had a significant and large main effect [F(1, 214) =
187.67, p < .001, η2 = .47]. The main effect of age, gender and
the interactions between these factors and task complexity fac-
tor were found non-significant. All the participants reported
higher feelings of difficulty in completing the complex drawing
tasks, irrespective of their age and/or gender.
Feelings of Difficulty after drawing: Task complexity factor
had again a significant and large main effect [F(1, 213) = 53.23,
p < .001, η2 = .20]. All the participants reported higher feelings
of difficulty for the complex drawing tasks, irrespective of their
age. Again no other main effects or interactions between factors
were found significant.
A series of repeated measures ANOVAs with the drawing
phase (before and after the production of the drawing) as a
within-subject variable and age (4) and gender (2) as be-
tween-subjects variables revealed a significant, large effect of
the drawing phase only in the case of the complex tasks, F(1,
213) = 74.86, p < .001, η2 = .26. Feelings of difficulty were
decreased after the drawing of the complex themes in all four
age groups (M = 2.17 and M = 1.68 the mean ratings before and
after the drawing, see also Table 1). The effect of drawing
phase was non-significant in the case of the simple tasks, F(1,
213) = 1.42, p > .05 [M = 1.36 and M = 1.33 the respective
mean ratings].
Feeling of Liking: Age had a significant and very large effect,
F(3, 212) = 40.73, p < .001, η2 = .36. The older the children the
lower feelings of liking their drawings they reported. Applica-
tion of Tukey’s post hoc comparison test showed that the dif-
ferences among ages groups were significant in all but one case,
that of between preschoolers and second grade school children.
These two age groups gave significantly higher estimations of
liking the drawings they produced as compared to 4th grade
children and those from the 6th grade children. No other main
effects or interactions were found significant.
Estimation of correctness: The same pattern in the ratings
was found. The main effect of age was significant and very
large, F(3, 213) = 27.12, p < .001, η2 = .27. Following the same
pattern, the older children judged their drawings as less correct
(again the difference wasn’t significant between preschoolers
and second graders). There was also a significant small effect
of task complexity factor F(1, 213) = 4.82, p < .05, η2 = .02. As
expected, correctness estimations were lower in the case of
complex tasks.
Dis cussion
The aim of the present study was to investigate possible age
differences in drawing performance of preschool and primary
school children, as well as in metacognitive experiences that are
activated before and after the drawing process.
To summarize, all the findings mentioned above could be
considered complementary to previous research evidence. Spe-
cifically, as regards drawing performance, the results verified
our first hypothesis about the improvement of drawing perfor-
mance with age, which is rather common evidence (Cox, 1992;
Freeman, 1980; Moore, 1986). A similar developmental pattern
did not appear in the case of metacognitive exper i ences, as
expected (Hypothesis 2), repeating, thus, previous findings,
which suggest that the metacognitive experiences seem to form
their own “system”, with close interrelations between them, and
to have a different developmental course as compared to that of
cognition (Efklides et al., 1997, 1998, 1999; Johnson, Sacuzzo
& Larson, 1995; Metallidou, 2003). The differential contribu-
tion of age to the metacognitive experiences tested in this study
is another indication that subjective experiences seem to “func-
tion according to different laws and express the personal trans-
formation of information and personal sense of things” (Ef-
klides, 1997. p. 113).
Starting from the feeling of difficulty, it was not found to
vary significantly among the four age groups. The finding that
even young children (e.g., preschoolers) do not judge the com-
pletion of the tasks as difficult, contradicts those researchers
who suggest that even the drawing of a man presents a number
of problems - related to planning and sequencing which the
child encounters and must overcome (Freeman, 1980; Thomas
& Silk, 1990). However, it might be possible that the child
confronts these problems in his/her first efforts to depict the
man, while familiarization with the task helps him to acquire a
well-practiced graphic schema, which does not present any
particular difficulties, at least at the subjective level.
It is noticeable, though, that children differentiated the feel-
ings of difficulty in accordance to the task’s level of complexity,
reporting higher feelings of difficulty for the complex drawing
tasks than for the simple ones, irrespective of age (see Hypo-
thesis 4). This finding implies that even very young children are
aware of the demands of various tasks, that is, they are sensitive
to task features, which contribute to the cognitive load of the
task. It is also in accordance with the view that every drawing
task presents difficulties, which the child must confront. These
difficulties are related to the child’s planning and organizing
skills (Freeman, 1980; Goodnow, 1977; Thomas & Silk, 1980)
or memory capacity (Dennis, 1992; Freeman, 1980; Morra,
1995). Moreover, these difficulties are greater in tasks includ-
ing the spatial arrangement of two objects in the scene as in
the partial occlusion tasks used in the present study – which
require that the child revises and modifies an adequate
well-practiced schema (Bonoti, 1993; Karmilof f -Smith, 1990)
in order to produce a successful representation (the case of the
complex tasks in our study). In this case an increased feeling of
difficulty could arise due to the cognitive interruption which
occurs when the available schema fails to confront task re-
quirements (Touroutoglou & Efklides, 2010).
The feeling of difficulty was also found to be a dynamic
feeling, which intensity changes in a micro-level during the
cognitive processing, a finding in accordance with previous
empirical data (Efklides, 2002b; Efklides et al., 1999) (Hypo-
thesis 3). In the present study, children changed their feelings of
difficulty of the task only after drawing the complex themes. It
seems that they based their initial feeling of difficulty on their
frequency estimates of previous encounters with the task. From
a metacognitive point of view, “illusions of feeling of difficul-
ty”, that is judging an objectively difficult task as easy and the
opposite, could occur because of a strong feeling of familiarity
the person may have for a task. This feeling of familiarity
usually leads to an expectation of fluency in processing (Ef-
klides, 2002a) and is interrelated with frequency estimates of
previous encounters with the task.
The lack of significant differentiation in the feeling of diffi-
culty among different ages in the present study may be due to
the scale used to measure these feelings. Inspection of the mean
reports in Table 1 shows that children gave low reports by us-
ing only the two first points of the scale (1: not at all and 2: a
little). Moreover, given that the feeling of difficulty depends on
the objective task difficulty and the intensity of effort expendi-
ture (Johnson et al., 1995) we are not in a position to know the
way children handle specific obstacles in the drawing process
as well as the amount of effort they invest and the strategies
they activate to overcome these obstacles along with develop-
ment. We believe that future research on the effort expenditure
during the drawing process will shed more light to the forma-
tion of the feeling of difficulty.
A similar pattern is observed in the results concerning the es-
timations of frequency. In this case, children irrespective of age
give higher frequency estimations for the simple tasks as com-
pared to the complex ones. These reports also support the view
that the “man” and the “house” constitute children’s most pop-
ular drawing choices (Cox, 1992; Thomas & Silk, 1980).
One of the most interesting findings of the present study was
that of gradual decrease of the feeling of liking and the estima-
tion of correctness of the drawn product with age, contrary to
our expectations (Hypothesis 2). This finding could partly sup-
port the claim that occupation and enjoyment in drawing de-
clines with age (Rose, Jolley, & Burkitt, 2006). Further, it is
complementary to previous empirical data for young children’s
tendency to overestimate the correctness of their performance
(Gonida, Efklides, & Kiosseoglou, 2003; Metallidou, 2003). As
children get older, they judge their drawings as less correct and
therefore they feel less satisfied with their drawings. As their
age increases their self-evaluations may become more accurate
since they are familiarize with the demands of various tasks and
receive feedback on their own performance and from the evalu-
ations of significant others (Eccles et al., 1993; Newman &
Wick, 1987; Phillips & Zimmerman, 1990; Stipek & MacIver,
1989). This finding is also reported by Jolley et al. (2000) who
found that young drawers overestimated their drawing skills
while the older ones tended to give more accurate s elf-evaluations.
According to the authors, “the decline of overestimation with
age is not owning to children becoming more negative, as
claimed by previous literature, but more realistic” (Jolley et al.,
2000. p. 576). In our study, the results suggest that the less
positive attitude towards the drawing begins after the 2nd grade.
The developmental course of these subjective experiences
provide empirical evidence which verify Willat’s (1995) ac-
count of drawing development, which suggests an interaction
during the drawing process between child’s performance and
judgment of the emerging drawing. Young children having
already acquired a well-practiced (Karmiloff-Smith, 1990) and
satisfactory (Golomb, 1992; Golomb & Helmund, 1987) gra-
phic schema for the depicted object judge their depiction as
correct and, thus, feel satisfied. On the other hand, by the age of
8 (students of 2nd grade) children start to be more demanding
and seem to perceive that their drawing does not consist a rea-
listic representation of the world. In other words, it seems that
as perceptions become more discriminating, confidence in the
ability to draw decreases (Hurlock and & Thomson, 1934). Ac-
cording to the traditional theories of drawing development
(Luquet, 1913; Piaget & Inhelder, 1956), children of eight years
and older go through the stage of ‘visual realism’ in which they
attempt to draw taking into account perspective, proportion and
distance, that is drawing from a particular point of view. How-
ever, drawing is not considered to have a crucial role in the
school curriculum in most Western societies (Anning, 2002;
Thomas & Silk, 1990) and therefore older children fail to
achieve the effects they desire in their drawings and to produce
visually realistic representations. As a result, older children
abandon drawing activity and replace it by the use of language
as a medium of self-expression (Arnheim, 1969).
A possible question for future research is whether children’s
feelings and estimates about the quality of their own perfor-
mance reflects their real subjective experience or the preference
for the norm or the ideal in a particular culture. For instance it
has been reported (Goodnow et al., 1986) that the evaluative
comments adults make about children’s drawings may influ-
ence children to prefer conventional forms of depiction. In oth-
er words, children’s estimation that adults consider some draw-
ings as ‘good’ or as ‘better’ than others, may affect their prefe-
rences and their subjective evaluations. Moreover, Itskowitz et
al. (1988) suggested that the preference for realism among older
children might have its origins in learned social norms. In their
study older children frequently asked for clarifications as to
whether they should choose the pictures they liked or the pic-
tures that other people would like. Many studies in the late 60s
about pedagogical methods in schools have mentioned the so-
cial emphasis on realism in drawing (Arnheim, 1969; Kellogg,
1970), while Anning (2002) based on some case studies
stressed the role that significant others might play in children’s
drawing. In a more recent study (Rose et al., 2006) while
teachers and parents reported their unconditional encourage-
ment to children’s drawing efforts, children seemed to interpret
this encouragement as an indirect urge to produce visually rea-
listic drawings.
Overall, the present study seems to support that drawing de-
velopment does not simply consist of obtaining greater profi-
ciency in making realistic representations, but also of changes
in a child’s evaluation about its own depictions. Taking into
account that there is always the possibility that the interpreta-
tion of children’s drawings may mirror the adults’ way of
thinking, it seems important to explore children’s self-reports
about their own drawings in order to investigate whether their
drawing strategies reflect those reported in experimental re-
search (Freeman, 1980; Thomas & Silk, 1990). In other words,
the investigation of children’s subjective experiences of their
own drawings might prove a very rewarding line of research,
since children’s self-concept of their own drawing ability could
be a valuable alternative way to investigate children’s draw-
Finally, from a metacognitive point of view, further research
on the formation and development of metacognitive experiences
in the area of drawing could provide new insights in the inves-
tigation of the mechanism that triggers various cognitive and
affective subjective states that are related to control decisions
during the processing of cognitive tasks. Drawing tasks could
be considered as tasks with high ecological validity, the com-
pletion of which at the same time requires a certain amount of
strategic processing, such as planning and organizing.
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