Thesis Title

Accents in Visual Language: Correlating Language Script Directionality with Bridge Drawing Interpretations

Graduation Date

Spring 2015

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Amy Backos, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Joanna Wallace, Phd, LMFT, ATR-BC


This pioneer research study examined the cross-cultural validity of directional elements in the Bridge Drawing as an art-based assessment. Deriving from neuro-linguistic theories of language influences on depiction and interpretation of visual imagery and perception of time, the study focused on the role of language script directionality in Bridge Drawing interpretations. Using an online survey, art therapists (N = 103) in 12 countries were asked to score five Bridge Drawing stimuli with a rating instrument developed for this study. A mixed methods approach was applied to compare responses by native speakers of Left-to-right script languages (predominantly English) with those of native speakers of right-to-left script languages (predominantly Hebrew). While quantitative analysis did not consistently yield significant differences between the two groups, qualitative analysis showed that Left-to-right script language speakers displayed stronger directional bias than speakers of right-to-left script languages. These findings demonstrate the projective nature of the Bridge Drawing, and question the construct validity of this art directive as an assessment tool. By linking art therapy to theories of language-based scanning bias in nonlinguistic tasks, this cross-cultural study contributes to the growing field of multicultural approaches to art therapy assessment and practice. Findings from this research study highlight the need for clinicians to apply best practice methods by considering clients' narratives, and viewing therapeutic artwork in a culture-linguistic context.