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Pupil dilations reflect why Rembrandt biased female portraits leftward and males rightward

Schirillo, James A.

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Portrait painters are experts at examining faces and since emotional content may be expressed differently on each side of the face, consider that Rembrandt biased his male portraits to show their right-cheek more often and female portraits to show their left-cheek more often. This raises questions regarding the emotional significance of such biased positions. I presented rightward and leftward facing male and female portraits. I measured observers’ pupil size while asking observers to report how (dis)pleasing they found each image. This was a methodological improvement over the type of research initially done by Eckhard Hess who claimed that pupils dilate to pleasant images and constrict to unpleasant images. His work was confounded since his images’ luminances and contrasts across conditions were inconsistent potentially affecting pupil size. To overcome this limitation I presented rightward or leftward facing male and female portraits by Rembrandt to observers in either their original or mirror-reversed position. I found that in viewing male portraits pupil diameter was a function of arousal. That is, larger pupil diameter occurred for images rated both low and high in pleasantness. This was not the case with female portraits. I discuss these findings in regard to the perceived dominance of males and how emotional expressions may be driven by hemispheric laterality.
hemispheric laterality
pupil size
face perception
esthetic judgments
7 (volume)
Schirillo, James A. (author)
2015-10-09T15:36:58Z (accessioned)
2015-10-09T15:36:58Z (available)
2014 (issued)
http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00938 (doi)
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/57361 (uri)
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ (uri)
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Pupil dilations reflect why Rembrandt biased female portraits leftward and males rightward

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