Drawing and figurative language

Published: 12 November 2019| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/ypsyjtf8b5.1
Melissa Allen


Understanding figurative language develops during middle childhood. Drawing can facilitate recall and may aid other aspects of linguistic expression. We examined whether children provide more symbolic interpretations of figurative statements in drawings relative to verbal explanations, and whether drawing facilitates overall symbolic interpretation. Ninety-six children were split into three age groups (5-6, 7-8, 9-10 years) in a between-subjects design. In the ‘draw first’ condition, they were asked to depict then explain figurative statements (e.g. raining like cats and dogs), and in the ‘explain first’ condition children were asked to explain then draw the expressions. We coded for symbolic or literal content. Overall, children provided more symbolic responses for verbal explanations compared to drawings. More symbolic responses occurred in the ‘draw first’ condition, suggesting drawing can facilitate subsequent symbolic verbal explanation. Older children provided more symbolic responses. Results are discussed in terms of the links between drawings, figurative language and development.



University of Bristol


Cognitive Psychology