eye tracking in art - Mona Lisa and Ai Weiwei
Do women tend to be more “complicated” than guys are? If true, then the emotionally complex, even downright inscrutable "Mona Lisa" was perfect as their favorite. Turning to men, most guys like to work with their hands. Therefore, Weiwei’s creation fit their preferences well.

Do men and women have different preferences when it comes to the Mona Lisa and a sculpture by Ai WeiWei?

The following is an excerpt from “First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art,” a study by Dr. Dan Hill.

By Dr. Dan Hill
Author of “First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art

This excerpt is from a section of “First Blush” devoted to understanding which artworks in this study had the greatest appeal for the participants, based on variables like gender, age, and race. To identify favorites, the metric is facial-coding appeal — using the highest-scoring positive results. What’s highlighted here is always the Area of Interest (AOI) in that particular artwork that elicited the greatest amount of emotional engagement, making it the trigger for how that artwork performed overall.

The women who participated in this study went for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” most of all. No surprise there, given the painting’s fame.

The men preferred an artwork many readers may not know: Ai Weiwei’s “Grapes.” What you’re seeing are 26 stools put together, only these aren’t ordinary three-legged wooden stools. The stools used in “Grapes” date back a century or more, to China’s Qing Dynasty.

Stepping back to consider the big-picture view: are women more people-oriented than men, generally speaking? I’d say so. As for the guys in this case, I’m being only partially facetious in saying their favorite might be viewed as an industrial shop project elevated into a piece of fine art.

Yes, these ancient stools are meant to serve as commentary on how in socialist China handcrafted antiques are being replaced by plastic and aluminum stools. Individuality is giving way to mass-produced consensus. But in all honesty, it must be said: who among the male participants knew about the stools’ background or the point Weiwei was trying to make? Didn’t the guys in this study simply enjoy seeing chairs artfully displayed?

Add to the conversation! Feel free to share your gender and preference of these two works in the comments section below.

Dan Hill, Ph.D., is the author of “First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art,” the largest study conducted involving eye tracking and facial coding to capture see/feel responses to art.

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Related Article:

Mona Lisa and The Birth of Adam: The Power of Faces in Art

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  1. So did you mean to say that women only appreciate famous paintings? That you aren’t surprised that women don’t have more subtle interests. That is what your 2 sentences indicate. And if you didn’t what did you mean?

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