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Psychology and Art

05 November 2014

Psychology and Art – strange bedfellows?

Psychology students set out to explore the use of art in psychology this week as part of the Big Draw project.

Year 13 looked at the power of suggestion, whether this could influence groups and whether this would be reflected in art. The students created a children’s story with many references to a tree and then read this story to some of our nursery students. After hearing the story 3 or 4 times, the children shared a giant piece of paper and some fingerpaint. They were instructed to simply put their hands anywhere on the paper they liked, our hope that the suggestion of the tree would cause them to unconsciously work as a group to create a giant tree.

Sound impossible? It was. It didn’t work. Although one student thought there was a tree shape – Click the above photo gallery to see the pictures.

Year 12 students expanded on art therapy to look at autism and art. We examined the characteristics of autism and some of the strategies that autistic people can use. We then looked at the case of Stephen Wiltshire, a confirmed autistic, who has the extraordinary talent of being able to accurately recreate panoramas of entire cities from memory.

Rorschachs were also considered in Year 11. The famous inkblots were created to help analyse hidden feelings and characteristics. Students took it upon themselves to test if these are effective. They created their own inkblots and interpreted them in different ways. They then ascribed characteristics to these different interpretations. As an example, they decided that if someone saw a flower in the inkblot, it could indicate that they had a happy personality. They went and tested students to see if they would see images that were similar to their own personality and found, to our surprise, that the inkblots were quite accurate in judging characteristics.

Year 10 looked at the use of Art Therapy. We discussed how art can be used to help people express fears or emotions that they are either unaware of or are unable to communicate properly either through mental disorder or due to a young age. We also looked at the case of Dibs (see below) before moving on to looking at if art can increase happiness. Students discussed various issues before drawing a representation of themselves and then explaining to a partner the reasons for their choices. There were some quite revealing characteristics.

The case of Dibs: Dibs was a young boy with bad behaviour and terrible grades at school.  All indications were that he was a bright and interlligent young man, but he was unable to communicate properly with his teachers about why he couldn't function in a school.  He took part in play therapy which allowed therapists to help him understand the reasons for his fears and to overcome them.

Update from: Mr. Jim Hartland, Head of Psychology

Please click the above photo gallery to see the pictures.