Adam Barnas, Daniel A. Hurlburt, Kaitlin E. Key



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When viewing a painting, "a person has an aesthetic experience that consists of visual scrutiny of interesting pictorial features detected initially to satisfy cognitive curiosity and to develop aesthetic appreciation of the display" (Locher et. al, 2006). The present study evaluates aesthetic preferences for faces, specifically relating to those influenced by art. Portraits and photographs of faces are matched for variables such as gender, artistic medium, ethnicity, face shape, facial hair, hair color, eye color, and facial position (full or profile) and then shown to participants, individually in separate conditions and then simultaneously in another condition. Data will be collected using self-report ratings and an eye tracker, which is a device that measures eye positions and movements while a participant is viewing the painting and/or photograph. Our hypothesis is that the faces in portraits will be rated higher for pleasingness than faces in the photographs because of the greater aesthetic appreciation and consequent value associated with art (Locher et al., 2006). Further, we expect that data from the eye tracker will be consistent with these ratings and will show that eye scanning movements will focus on features of the portraits that determine the aesthetic value of the paintings and more time will be spent in eye fixations on these features than in similar features of the photographs. This research has implications for marketing and product development, as well as significance for our understanding of what makes art "art."

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Susan T. Davis

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium poster

Evaluations of Aesthetics of Faces in Portraits and Photographs