Most descriptions of visual perception explain how our brains interpret incoming visual stimuli (via feature detection, monocular depth cues, etc.). They then assume that the same process works for interpreting drawings, by which I mean 2D illustrations of objects.

However, there seem to be some cultural differences in the way 2D images are interpreted: for example, the fact that less "literate"/"developed" cultures perform better with the Muller-Lyer illusion (as mentioned here).

Taking this idea further, my parents, who lived in a rural area in India, knew one person who had never encountered pictures and couldn't interpret them. It wasn't in her culture. If one showed her a picture of a pig, she wouldn't be able to make out it was a pig, or even an animal. To her, it was just a set of lines on a sheet of paper. I know that story is anecdotal, and several things are unclear (such as whether it worked for photographs vs illustrations, etc.). However, my question is: Is this possible?

Is the ability to interpret drawings a universal one, or is it a skill that (most) people acquire the same way as language or writing? Is there any research on this topic I can read up on?

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    $\begingroup$ Your parent's description of the person reminds me of someone with visual agnosia. Take a look: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosia#Visual_agnosia $\endgroup$ – Justas Oct 25 '18 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ That's a possibility! And thanks, now I know which region of the brain to focus on 🙂. I'm wondering, to what extent is interpreting drawings a learned activity? For example, it took some "practice" before I could easily understand manga-style drawings—so is that a higher-level case, fine-tuning for certain styles/art-forms, or would people have to "learn to see" drawings (eg. exposure in childhood) to be able to see any drawings at all? $\endgroup$ – Hippo Oct 26 '18 at 12:47

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