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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Size and emotion or depth and emotion? Evidence, using Matryoshka (Russian) dolls, of children using physical depth as a proxy for emotional charge

Andrew K Dunn*, Nicola Taylor and Thom Baguley

Author Affiliations

Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK

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BMC Psychology 2013, 1:21  doi:10.1186/2050-7283-1-21

Published: 29 October 2013



The size and emotion effect is the tendency for children to draw people and other objects with a positive emotional charge larger than those with a negative or neutral charge. Here we explored the novel idea that drawing size might be acting as a proxy for depth (proximity).


Forty-two children (aged 3-11 years) chose, from 2 sets of Matryoshka (Russian) dolls, a doll to represent a person with positive, negative or neutral charge, which they placed in front of themselves on a sheet of A3 paper.


We found that the children used proximity and doll size, to indicate emotional charge.


These findings are consistent with the notion that in drawings, children are using size as a proxy for physical closeness (proximity), as they attempt with varying success to put positive charged items closer to, or negative and neutral charge items further away from, themselves.

Size and emotion effect; Children’s drawings; Proximity; Depth; Attachment; Representation