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Different languages: How cultures around the world draw shapes differently (qz.com)
94 points by hunglee2 121 days ago | hide | past | web | 29 comments | favorite



>they also suggest our tendencies get stronger over time. The more we write, the more our habits become ingrained.

Not really a surprising/revolutionary conclusion, IMHO.

As a side note, this other experiment is interesting, what happens when you are asked to draw a "common enough" (i.e. something everyone has seen and used) and simple (yet more complex than a circle) object, like a bycicle? A designer/artist asked people to draw a bycicle and then 3-d rendered the sketch, Velocipedia:

http://www.gianlucagimini.it/prototypes/velocipedia.html


That was a great project - it showed more nuance in how people communicate. Interesting observations too; got a good laugh at the fact that oft noted doctors' ownership of most unreadable handwriting prize translates to other fields:

Some diversities are gender driven. Nearly 90% of drawings in which the chain is attached to the front wheel (or both to the front and the rear) were made by females. On the other hand, while men generally tend to place the chain correctly, they are more keen to over-complicate the frame when they realize they are not drawing it correctly. One of the most frequent issues for participants was not knowing exactly how to describe their job in short. The most unintelligible drawing has also the most unintelligible handwriting. It was made by a doctor.


The bicycle thing is great, thanks for sharing.


If you think of a circle as a big O, then most Westerners will start at the top and go anticlockwise.

Myself, I start on the left and go clockwise. That's because my Os tend to be egg-shaped, and I find it slightly easier to draw a consistent circle as two semicircles, like a rainbow and its mirror. And of course from natural handwriting, shapes like a, n, m etc. will incline me to go clockwise.

So to my mind it's the letter in your alphabet that's closest to a circle given where you started, rather than direction, that matters.


My o's and a's are counter-clockwise. I drew my circle clockwise. I think that I considered it like drawing the face of a clock, rather than any connection with handwriting. On one hand, I'm an American and a native English speaker. On the other, I'm left-handed and have studied both Japanese and Chinese, so I'm not sure what to make of it.


Ha! That's interesting. As stated in an other comment, I drew the circle clockwise (I am French).

After reading your comment and imagining the circle as a big letter O, I draw it counterclockwise...

And then again, a neutral circle - again clockwise.


Ditto here, and I'm American so guess I don't count as western.


In drawing the circle I think it is more important where you place your starting point than the direction of the stroke. Indeed if I start at the top I draw it clockwise, while when starting from the bottom I draw counter-clockwise. This seems to be the main difference between 'western' drawing and japanese ones: the starting point.


That's a good point. At least in my case, I started at the top, kind of thinking of a clock, and drew in the appropriate direction.


Fascinating article!

I wonder how much of this specific data was shaped by the fact that this is on a computer? E.g. I "drew" with my trackpad. I ended up drawing the circle clockwise, which is interesting, since I'm a native-English speaker, mostly read/write in English (not much handwriting), but actually live in Israel.

I'm pretty sure I'd have drawn it counterclockwise if I was doing it on paper, though.


This is fascinating. I'm an American and assumed most Americans would draw their circles clockwise. Just all around a really neat piece. THIS is the type of article that keeps me here. Great post OP.


Yeah I drew my top start clockwise circle thinking all Americans/westerners did this. Guess not.


Really interesting article. Nice read indeed. I always draw circles clockwise. Actually I can write in several different alphabets. Regardless of which hand I use. Just tested that. Latin/Cyril based ones on right hand. Clockwise. Arabic or Kanas on left hand and again clockwise. But I don't think starting point really matters. It's just muscle memory most of the time. Once you learn, you keep it. If it was different, It should be counter clockwise on left hand.


Study cleverly skipped India. May be since it has lot of languages and has been under western influence for long


Maybe it was less sinister and just that there was not enough interesting data?

Mini rant: No idea your nationality - most of the Indians I've met are some of the most egotistical people in the world, and constantly feel the need to interject themselves into everything. Maybe people from India just don't draw statistically interesting circles.


Now that's an insult I'm going to have to pocket for the Culture Wars: "$YOU_PEOPLE draw statistically uninteresting circles!"

Truly this is the argument that shall be the first ever to result in the win-by-acclamation that so many have fantasized about online, yet never experienced.


Extended rant: Because skipping 1/6th of the World population, with the most amount of diverse cultures, makes a very effective study doesn't it? :) Suggest changing the name of the article from "cultures around the world" if it's going to skip 1/6th of the World anyways.


This reminds me of something I saw in a symbolic logic course in college.

Many Western kids struggled to produce a nice-looking existential quantifier (∃). I guess they instinctively thought of it as a mirrored "E" and found it rather awkward to draw from right to left.

Chinese kids, on the other hand, treated the symbol as if it was the Chinese radical 彐, which has an obvious stroke order: → ↓ → →. This resulted in a much better-looking symbol. (Strokes within a single Chinese character almost always go from left to right, even if the composition as a whole goes in a different direction.)

I'm Korean, so I just drew a 크, which has the same stroke order as above.


Incidentally I drew clockwise. From India. A native speaker of Tamil, and grew up writing scripts that are circular [0](a even more rigorous circular ones before[1]).

Not sure if the bucks the trend of others in India.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_language [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vatteluttu_alphabet



I drew the circle clockwise because I thought about clocks but yes, I draw c, q, etc counterclockwise.

If you ever need to draw a circle without a compass see https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LvpCX89lHvU


I am French, I drew the circle clockwise.

I then asked my wife and she asked "left hand OK?", and drew it counterclockwise. I then realized that I would draw it counterclockwise with my left hand as well.

When asked to draw with her right hand, she drew it clockwise.

We are both right handed.


Not just the way you draw shapes but the shapes you draw are influenced by culture and geography.

Draw a tree.

Did you just draw a stick with something puffy at the top, or something like a christmas tree, or a palm tree? If you live in Hawaii, you probably drew a palm, for example.


The problem with this is that I instinctively drew a circle starting from the bottom and clockwise just because I was using my touchpad. But when given a pen and paper, I would start from the right and draw counter clockwise.


Why would you not use a compass to draw a circle is that because I did TD (technical drawing) at high school


Also westerner and also draw them clockwise.. Mostly from the top. I also thought that most people would start "to the right" as we write in that direction.


It would be interesting to see the results of the same experiment with illiterate people, or even people that can read but not write.


And I drew it clockwise because I was using my right handed mouse with my left hand. ( That way I can rest my elbows on my desk... )


Couldn't it just be the difference between right handed and left handed?




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