Wednesday, 14 July 2010


An interesting study has been published online in the journal "Perception."
Entitled "Does left – right orientation matter in the perceived expressiveness of pictures? A study of Bewick’s animals (1753 – 1828)" researchers used images from Bewick's Quadrupeds to test the assertion, shared by Bewick himself, that the orientation of an image makes a difference to the way in which it is perceived.

You can find the Abstract and links to the full text by clicking here.
To read the full text you need a subscription, as detailed here.

The researchers: Kate M Bennett, Richard Latto, Marco Bertamini, Ivana Bianchi, Sarah Minshull.

The paper was received 27 November 2009, in revised form 25 April 2010; published online 28 June 2010

Abstract. Strong claims have been made about the importance of orientation in visual art. Although there have been a few studies whether left or right oriented pictures are more aesthetically pleasing, there have been no empirical studies whether the meaning and expressiveness of pictures depend on orientation. Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) made explicit decisions about whether the main protagonist in his pictures should face left or right and did so to express particular meaning. In three experiments we examined whether orientation changes the expressiveness of an image. In experiment 1 participants viewed eight of Bewick’s animal wood engravings facing either in their original orientation or reversed, in a between-subjects design. They rated each print on ten characteristics, for example: docile – wild, clumsy – agile, and weak – strong. The original received more extreme ratings, across characteristics, than the reversal. Experiment 2 confirmed this result with participants from Italy. In experiment 3, using a within-subjects design, participants viewed ten wood engravings of dogs and rated them on characteristics specifically identified by Bewick. Again, the ratings of the original orientation were more extreme. Thus, in agreement with Bewick, we conclude that orientation affects expressiveness.

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