It’s been the subject of scrutiny and debate for centuries; does Mona Lisa’s smile emote happiness? It’s routinely been described as ambiguous. But is it really that hard to read??
In an offbeat trial, close to 100 percent of people described her expression as unequivocally ‘happy’, researchers revealed today.
“We were really astonished,” neuroscientist Juergen Kornmeier of the University of Freiburg in Germany, who co-authored the study, told AFP. Kornmeier and a team used what is arguably the most famous piece of art in the world in a study of factors that influence how humans judge visual cues such as facial expressions.
Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait, to many, appears, at first, to be smiling sweetly. But the longer you look at it, Mona Lisa seems to adopt a mocking sneer or sad stare.
In 97 percent of cases during the study, however, participants perceived the image as “happy”.
Understanding this process may be useful in the study of psychiatric disorders, said Kornmeier. Affected people can have hallucinations, seeing things that others do not, which may be the result of a misalignment between the brain’s processing of sensory input, and perceptual memory.
As for the masterpiece itself, the team believes its work has finally settled an age-old question. ~ Jason