We’ve all heard a doting parent pronounce that their toddler’s latest scribbling, proudly displayed on the fridge, is evidence of a nascent genius. Perhaps surprisingly, there may be a shred of truth to the claim.
New findings from a major study involving 7,750 pairs of twins suggest that a child’s ability to draw at four years old is linked to their intelligence as a teenager.
Although countless factors impact on a young person’s intelligence, researchers at King’s College London found that children who could draw a more accurate picture of a human at four were “moderately” more likely to be do well in intelligence tests at 14.
The research, part of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) – a major project looking at how genes and environment affect human development – required parents to ask their children to draw a picture of a person.
Drawings were rated 0 to 12 based on the presence and correct number of body-parts including arms, legs, head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair and arms. For example, a child who drew a body with all limbs present, but no facial features, received a score of four.
However, parents whose children drew badly should not be booking emergency art classes.
“The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry,” said Dr Rosalind Arden, lead author of the study, which is published in the journal Psychological Science today.
“Drawing ability does not determine intelligence; there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence later in life.”
Researchers also looked at whether our drawing ability is linked to our genes, by comparing the results of identical twins, who share all of their genes, with those of non-identical twins, who share around 50 per cent of their genes.
Identical twins were found to have more similar scores for their infant drawings than non-identical, suggesting that there may at least be some genetic link to drawing ability.
“This does not mean that there is a drawing gene,” said Dr Arden. “A child’s ability to draw stems from many other abilities, such as observing or holding a pencil. We are a long way off understanding how genes influence all these different types of behaviour.”