How the brain affects our taste in painting

How the brain affects our taste in painting

Our preferences in art are not accidental. They depend on the level of education, life experience, as well as how our brain perceives images. In other words, taste can be predicted using neurobiology.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology asked 1,300 volunteers to rate 825 paintings in areas such as impressionism, cubism, abstract art, and color field painting. Most of the participants in the experiment had nothing to do with art, but this did not stop them from choosing paintings to their taste.

It turned out that two types of factors influenced preferences. The first was called low-level and included contrast, the perception of colors and shades, that is, the visual part of the image. The second, high-level, was more likely to relate to the emotions that the paintings evoked.

Researchers divided all participants into three types. Some liked concrete, as clear and sharp images as possible, the second preferred dynamics, and the third preferred abstraction.

Then scientists chose six volunteers, each of whom was shown 1000 paintings. At this time, their brain was scanned using MRI. While viewing images, the visual cortex was activated, and then those areas of the brain that are responsible for the ability to make value judgments. That is, people simultaneously perceived the characteristics of low and high levels.

The participants of the three types had slightly different brain activity: they reacted more strongly to the images they liked. This allowed us to develop an algorithm that is able to offer a person pictures based on neurobiological reactions.

Then the scientists decided to check whether this mechanism works for another visual art form – photography. A group of 382 people received 716 pictures. And again it turned out that the subjects react to the same factors – contrast and dynamics, and are still divided into three types with different tastes.

Researchers note that they had too small a sample, and that the results do not mean that all other factors, whether it is the presence of an art education or the cultural characteristics of people from different countries, do not play a role. However, perhaps our perception of beauty is less conscious than we ourselves think.

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