Parsing eye movement analysis of scanpaths of naïve viewers of art: How do we differentiate art from non-art pictures?

  • Wolfgang H. Zangemeister Neuroophthalmology Unit, Department of Neurology, University Hamburg, FRG
  • Claudio Privitera Dept. of Physiological Optics and Optometry, UC Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Keywords: scanpath, art versus non-art pictures, parsing eye movements, string editing


Relating to G. Buswell’s early work we posed the questions: How do art-naïve people look at pairs of artful pictures and similarly looking snapshots? Does the analysis of their eye movement recordings reveal a difference in their perception? Parsing eye scanpaths using string editing, similarity coefficients can be sorted out and represented for the two measures ‘Sp’ (Similarities of position) and ‘Ss’ (Similarities of sequences). 25 picture pairs were shown 5 times to 7 subjects with no specific task, who were ‘art-naïve’ to avoid confounding of the results through specific art knowledge of the subjects. A significant difference between scanpaths of artful pictures compared to snapshots was not found in our subjects´ repeated viewing sessions. Auto-similarity (same subject viewing the same picture) and cross-similarity (different subjects viewing the same picture) significantly demonstrated this result, for sequences of eye fixations (Ss) as well as their positions (Sp): In case of global (different subjects and different pairs) sequential similarity Ss we found that about 84 percent of the picture pairs where viewed with very low similarity, in quasi random mode within the range of random values. Only in 4 out of 25 artful-picture snapshot pairs was a high similarity found. A specific restricted set of representative regions in the internal cognitive model of the picture is essential for the brain to perceive and eventually recognize the picture: This representative set is quite similar for different subjects and different picture pairs independently of their art–non art features that where in most cases not recognized by our subjects. Furthermore our study shows that the distinction of art versus non-art has vanished, causing confusion about the ratio of signal and noise in the communication between artists and viewers of art.
How to Cite
Zangemeister, W. H., & Privitera, C. (2013). Parsing eye movement analysis of scanpaths of naïve viewers of art: How do we differentiate art from non-art pictures?. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 6(2).