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      Visual exploration patterns of human figures in action: an eye tracker study with art paintings

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          Art exploration is a complex process conditioned by factors at different levels and includes both basic visual principles and complex cognitive factors. The human figure is considered a critical factor attracting the attention in art painting. Using an eye-tracking methodology, the goal of this study was to explore different elements of the human figure performing an action (face and body parts in action) in complex social scenes characterized by different levels of social interaction between agents depicted in scenes (individual vs. social). The sample included 44 laypersons, and the stimuli consisted of 10 fine art paintings representing the figurative style of classical art. The results revealed different scanning patterns of the human figure elements related to the level of social interaction of agents depicted in the scene. The agents’ face attracted eye movements in social interaction scenes while the agents’ body parts attracted eye movements only when the agents were involved in individual actions. These processes were confirmed specifically in participants with high empathic abilities who became immediately fixated on faces to develop a mimetic engagement with other agents. Future studies integrating other measures would help confirm the results obtained and strengthen their implication for embodiment processes.

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          Most cited references 38

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          A cortical area selective for visual processing of the human body.

          Despite extensive evidence for regions of human visual cortex that respond selectively to faces, few studies have considered the cortical representation of the appearance of the rest of the human body. We present a series of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies revealing substantial evidence for a distinct cortical region in humans that responds selectively to images of the human body, as compared with a wide range of control stimuli. This region was found in the lateral occipitotemporal cortex in all subjects tested and apparently reflects a specialized neural system for the visual perception of the human body.
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            Neural systems for recognizing emotion.

             Ralph Adolphs (2002)
            Recognition of emotion draws on a distributed set of structures that include the occipitotemporal neocortex, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and right frontoparietal cortices. Recognition of fear may draw especially on the amygdala and the detection of disgust may rely on the insula and basal ganglia. Two important mechanisms for recognition of emotions are the construction of a simulation of the observed emotion in the perceiver, and the modulation of sensory cortices via top-down influences.
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              A saliency-based search mechanism for overt and covert shifts of visual attention


                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                26 October 2015
                : 6
                1Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milano, Italy
                2Dipartimento di Scienze Umane e Sociali, Università di Bergamo Bergamo, Italy
                3Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology Lab, Istituto Auxologico Italiano – Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Milano, Italy
                4Unità di Ricerca in Psicologia dell’Arte, Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milano, Italy
                Author notes

                Edited by: Isabella Pasqualini, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

                Reviewed by: Thora Tenbrink, Bangor University, UK; Andrea Serino, University of Bologna, Italy

                *Correspondence: Daniela Villani, daniela.villani@

                This article was submitted to Cognitive Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2015 Villani, Morganti, Cipresso, Ruggi, Riva and Gilli.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 75, Pages: 10, Words: 0
                Original Research


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