The Mona Lisa or Gioconda is one of the most enigmatic paintings in the history of art. This work of the sixteenth century of Leonardo Da Vinci has been the subject of many theories and unknowns such as the identity of the model, whether she was pregnant or not, and finally, whether he was smiling or not and if that gesture denoted joy or bitterness. Now, a study from the University of California published in the journal Psychological Science on April 11 has ended the intrigue. Smile or not? It depends on how you feel when you look at it.
Experiments conducted by the area of visual perception and neurology at the University of California show that our own emotions affect how we see a neutral face. And there is no face more neutral and susceptible to change mood than La Gioconda. “If you see the picture after screaming with your husband you will see it in a different way,” Dr. Erika Siegel, responsible for directing this research, told the Daily Mail. “If you are having the time of your life in the Louvre, you will appreciate its enigmatic smile “. Siegel has studied with his classmates how our emotions modify the perception of the world around us, even when we are not aware that something has altered our feelings. This is based on the modern theory of the “brain as a predictive organ, rather than a reactive one,” says Siegel.
This theory is based, according to the doctor, that “we have a lifetime of experience and we use those experiences to predict what we will experience in the future”. “Incoming information is only used to correct predictions if they are incorrect,” he explains. The researchers came to the conclusion that the way we perceive a new face as happy, sad or neutral, actually has much more to do with how we feel than with the expression on that face. Siegel gathered 43 participants for this experiment, who showed different images to each eye intermittently. In each person, one eye recorded the photograph directly (dominant eye) and the other did so subconsciously (non-dominant passive eye). The dominant eye registered neutral expressions while the non-dominant passive saw emotions on the faces as happiness, anger or doubt. In this way, when the researcher asked the participants what expression the individual in the photograph had, they always answered what was related to the image seen by the non-dominant eye. The research compares this subconscious register of emotional images with the effect that our emotional state has on our perceptions. In this way, the researchers affirm that not only what we see influences but also what we feel, something that increases when the face is neutral. “We are the architects of our own experience, our brain makes predictions about what it expects to see and uses outside information to update its expectations,” says Siegel.