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Cognition. 2010 Dec;117(3):276-301. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.08.021.

Visual-object ability: a new dimension of non-verbal intelligence.

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National University of Singapore, Psychology Department, Singapore.


The goal of the current research was to introduce a new component of intelligence: visual-object intelligence, that reflects one's ability to process information about visual appearances of objects and their pictorial properties (e.g., shape, color and texture) as well as to demonstrate that it is distinct from visual-spatial intelligence, which reflects one's ability to process information about spatial relations and manipulate objects in space. Study 1 investigated the relationship between performance on various measures of visual-object and visual-spatial abilities, and areas of specialization (visual art, science and humanities). Study 2 examined qualitative differences in approaches to interpreting visual abstract information between visual artists, scientists and humanities/social science professionals. Study 3 investigated qualitative differences in visual-object versus visual-spatial processing by examining how members of different professions generate, transform, inspect, and manipulate visual images. The results of the three studies demonstrated that visual-object ability satisfies the requirements of an independent component of intelligence: (1) it uniquely relates to specialization in visual art; (2) it supports processing of abstract visual-object information; and (3) it has unique quantitative and qualitative characteristics, distinct from those of visual-spatial processing.

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