Framing "I can't draw": The influence of cultural frames on the development of drawing

Neil Cohn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Why is it that many people feel that they "can't draw"? In a recent article (Cohn, 2012), I put forth a new theory that compared the cognitive structure of drawing to the cognitive structure of language. Like language, drawing uses schemas that combine in innumerable novel ways, and thus children learning to draw must acquire these schemas from the drawings in their environment. However, while most people in the United States and Europe "can't draw," Japanese children have far greater proficiency in drawing. This paper explores reasons for this cultural disparity in graphic fluency originating in the structure of the drawing systems in those respective cultures and the beliefs that frame ideas about drawing and art education. In particular, I explore the intriguing possibility that cultural assumptions admonishing imitation of other people's drawings prohibits the acquisition of graphic schemas, thereby leading to people feeling that they "can't draw."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-117
Number of pages16
JournalCulture & Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-cultural frames
  • art
  • art education
  • drawing
  • imitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Framing "I can't draw": The influence of cultural frames on the development of drawing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this