Looking into Mona Lisa’s smiling eyes: allusion to an illusion

ZAVAGNO, Daniele, ACTIS-GROSSO, Rossana and DANEYKO, Olga (2022). Looking into Mona Lisa’s smiling eyes: allusion to an illusion. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 16.

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Official URL: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum...
Open Access URL: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum... (Published version)
Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.878288


We present results from two experiments aimed at studying the direction of Mona Lisa’s gaze and its affective expression. In experiment 1 we studied the effect of retinal image size on the perception of her gaze by manipulating observation distances of a high-quality print of the painting. Participants (N = 30) were asked to answer a simple question (is the person portrayed looking at you?) from six different distances ranging from 55 to 755 cm. One group of participants started evaluations from 55 cm; the other group did the opposite. Results show an effect of distance on the perception of Mona Lisa’s gaze as staring at the observer: from the furthest distances, the impression of a staring Mona Lisa is robust; from the nearest distances, such impression becomes ambiguous. Experiment 2 presents data concerning the direction of Mona Lisa’s gaze and whether this appears to be smiling, derived from an experiment aimed at studying the impression of gaze (direction and emotional content) in portraits (paintings and photographs). Only data concerning Mona Lisa are reported. Participants (N = 41) were randomly assigned to one of two groups: on a LCD screen, one group saw the entire head, and the other group saw only a section reproducing Mona Lisa’s eyes. Experimental sessions were two: in session 1 participants had to decide whether the image (whole-head or eyes only) was looking at them; in session 2 participants had to decide whether the head (or the eyes) was smiling. RTs from the two groups of participants were not statistically significant. Results for session 1 confirm experiment 1’s general findings. Results for session 2 clearly show that Mona Lisa is not only smiling with her face, but also with her eyes. Results are discussed in relation to the literature on Mona Lisa’s gaze and smile.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: ** From Frontiers via Jisc Publications Router ** Licence for this article: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ **Journal IDs: eissn 1662-5161 **History: published_online 01-07-2022; accepted 26-05-2022; submitted 17-02-2022; collection 2022
Uncontrolled Keywords: Human Neuroscience, Mona Lisa effect, staring portraits, picture perception, perspective robustness, facial expressions and emotion, gaze expression, gaze direction changes
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.878288
SWORD Depositor: Colin Knott
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2022 10:06
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2023 11:02
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/30463

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