The Annals of Applied Statistics

What we look at in paintings: A comparison between experienced and inexperienced art viewers

Anna-Kaisa Ylitalo, Aila Särkkä, and Peter Guttorp

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How do people look at art? Are there any differences between how experienced and inexperienced art viewers look at a painting? We approach these questions by analyzing and modeling eye movement data from a cognitive art research experiment, where the eye movements of twenty test subjects, ten experienced and ten inexperienced art viewers, were recorded while they were looking at paintings.

Eye movements consist of stops of the gaze as well as jumps between the stops. Hence, the observed gaze stop locations can be thought of as a spatial point pattern, which can be modeled by a spatio-temporal point process. We introduce some statistical tools to analyze the spatio-temporal eye movement data, and compare the eye movements of experienced and inexperienced art viewers. In addition, we develop a stochastic model, which is rather simple but fits quite well to the eye movement data, to further investigate the differences between the two groups through functional summary statistics.

Article information

Ann. Appl. Stat., Volume 10, Number 2 (2016), 549-574.

Received: October 2014
Revised: December 2015
First available in Project Euclid: 22 July 2016

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Coverage intensity point process shift function transition probability


Ylitalo, Anna-Kaisa; Särkkä, Aila; Guttorp, Peter. What we look at in paintings: A comparison between experienced and inexperienced art viewers. Ann. Appl. Stat. 10 (2016), no. 2, 549--574. doi:10.1214/16-AOAS921.

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Supplemental materials

  • Supplement A: Statistics for fixations inside the picture. Table includes information about the fixations, such as total number of fixations and mean fixation duration, for each subject.
  • Supplement B: Statistics for saccades inside the picture. Table includes information about the saccades, such as mean saccade duration and mean saccade length, for each subject.
  • Supplement C: The most visited areas during the six 30 second intervals for novices and non-novices. Figures show the top 5% and top 1% intensities in 30 second intervals (0–30 s), (30–60 s), (60–90 s), (90–120 s), (120–150 s), and (150–180 s) for novices and non-novices.
  • Supplement D: Results for the comparison of novices and non-novices for all six paintings. Results for the intensity surface and fixation duration distribution comparisons between novices and non-novices for all six paintings used in the experiment.
  • Supplement E: Results for the groupwise fixation duration distribution comparisons for three pairs of paintings. Results for the fixation duration distribution comparisons within novice and non-novice groups for the three pairs of paintings: Järnefelt–Monet, Kandinsky–Suomi, and Poussin–Tammi.