Researchers from Germany’s University of Freiburg recently published a study claiming that a majority of people faced with images of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa say that she is, in fact, smiling. For the study, participants were presented with both the original painting and with images of the work in which the corners of Mona Lisa’s mouth had been slightly raised or lowered to make her look more or less happy.
Dr. Jürgen Kornmeier, one of the scientists leading the study, said of his research: “…we were very surprised to find out that the original Mona Lisa is almost always seen as being happy. That calls the common opinion among art historians into question.” Participants identified the original Mona Lisa and the images with a more upturned mouth as happy nearly 100 percent of the time.
This study is part of a larger project in which Kornmeier and his colleague, Dr. Ludger Tebartz van Elst, are exploring how the human brain fills in the imperceptible aspects of the world around us. To read more about the study, please go here.