When Art Moves the Eyes: A Behavioral and Eye-Tracking Study

<div><p>The aim of this study was to investigate, using eye-tracking technique, the influence of bottom-up and top-down processes on visual behavior while subjects, naïve to art criticism, were presented with representational paintings. Forty-two subjects viewed color and black and white paintings (Color) categorized as dynamic or static (Dynamism) (bottom-up processes). Half of the images represented natural environments and half human subjects (Content); all stimuli were displayed under aesthetic and movement judgment conditions (Task) (top-down processes). Results on gazing behavior showed that content-related top-down processes prevailed over low-level visually-driven bottom-up processes when a human subject is represented in the painting. On the contrary, bottom-up processes, mediated by low-level visual features, particularly affected gazing behavior when looking at nature-content images. We discuss our results proposing a reconsideration of the definition of content-related top-down processes in accordance with the concept of embodied simulation in art perception.</p> </div>