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Examining art: dissociating pattern and perceptual influences on oculomotor behaviour


Kaulard,  K
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Tatler, B., Wade, N., & Kaulard, K. (2007). Examining art: dissociating pattern and perceptual influences on oculomotor behaviour. Spatial Vision, 21(1), 165-184. doi:10.1163/156856807782753903.

When observing art the viewer’s understanding results from the interplay between the marks made on the surface by the artist and the viewer’s perception and knowledge of it. Here we use a novel set of stimuli to dissociate the influences of the marks on the surface and the viewer’s perceptual experience upon the manner in which the viewer inspects art. Our stimuli provide the opportunity to study situations in which (1) the same visual stimulus can give rise to two different perceptual experiences in the viewer, and (2) the visual stimuli differ but give rise to the same perceptual experience in the viewer. We find that oculomotor behaviour changes when the perceptual experience changes. Oculomotor behaviour also differs when the viewer’s perceptual experience is the same but the visual stimulus is different. The methodology used and insights gained from this study offer a first step toward an experimental exploration of the relative influences of the artist’s creation and viewer’s perception when viewing art and also toward a better understanding of the principles of composition in portraiture.