An Experimental Approach to the Evaluation of Spatial Structure in the Paintings of Schizophrenics and Alcoholics: The Scots and the Alaskan Eskimos

Fellows-Swenson, Judith Anne (1984) An Experimental Approach to the Evaluation of Spatial Structure in the Paintings of Schizophrenics and Alcoholics: The Scots and the Alaskan Eskimos. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

An extensive review of related literature offers an opportunity to examine work which has describe the schizophrenic personality disorganisation as a process of disintegration, involving a fundamental change in relationships with reality. There is a disintegration of the selfboundary, making it difficult for the schizophrenic individual to differentiate between himself and the outer world. This disintegration process is not always apparent because the schizophrenic abandons verbal communication. He still needs to communicate, however, and often replaces verbal communication with the nonverbal graphic form of expression. Billig (1970) suggested a relationship between the stages of the schizophrenic's ego disintegration and specific changes in the graphic representation of space. These characteristic changes in spatial structure could, according to Billig (1970), be detected universally in the spontaneous paintings produced by schizophrenics. The primary purpose of this research, designed to experimentally investigate Billig's (1970) spatial structure theory and compare the results with his findings, was to develop a nonverbal diagnostic tool to be used with schizophrenic patients. Perceptual size and distance constancy tests were included in the experimental procedure to provide a new source of information about the relationship between disturbances of the ego boundary, body image, the self, the perceptual constancies, and space perception as described by Weckowicz and Sommer (1960). Consequently, the experimental procedure included tests of size and distance constancy as well as two painting tasks (free-choice and suggested subject). To isolate the effects of culture and to explore the possible similarity between two clinical groups that share symptoms, such as thought disorder, six groups were tested, comprising schizophrenics, alcoholics, and controls (individuals with no psychiatric history) from both Eskimo and Scottish cultures. The primary hypothesis, which stated that there is a significant positive correlation between the amount of error made on a size constancy task and the ratings representing the disintegration of spatial structures in paintings, was not supported by the experimental data, although some of the secondary hypotheses were supported. For example, there was a significant difference between the spatial structure ratings of the Scottish schizophrenics and Eskimo schizophrenics. In spite of the fact that the spatial structures characteristic of the schizophrenic patient (Billig, 1970) were detected in the paintings of the Eskimo schizophrenics, there was a significant difference between the ratings for the Scottish and Eskimo schizophrenic groups. The paintings produced by the Eskimo alcoholic subjects received the highest percentage of the rating that represented the spatial structure characteristic of the most extreme stage of schizophrenic deterioration. Therefore, the universal application of Billig's (1970) theory was not supported by the results of this study. The research perspective emphasised the need for methodological detail and design associated with psychiatric art evaluation. It was submitted that the spatial structure rating scale, the nonverbal diagnostic tool, developed for this study would be most efficient if applied to one patient's paintings throughout the course of his treatment. Various explanations for the findings are discussed as well as numerous methodological proposals and directions for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Clinical psychology
Date of Award: 1984
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1984-77954
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 15:46
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 15:46
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/77954

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