Lateral biases in lighting of abstract artwork

David McDine, Ian Livingston, Nicole Thomas, Lorin Elias

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Previous studies examining perceptual biases in art have revealed that paintings tend to be lit from above and to the left. Abstract images provide a way of testing for the left-light bias while controlling for cues such as posing biases, ground line, shadows, and reflections. A total of 42 participants completed a task that required moving a "virtual flashlight" across the surface of abstract images presented on a computer screen: 20 images (presented both right-side-up and upside down) were used in the study. The participant's only instruction was to "light the painting in a way that is most aesthetically pleasing to you". As predicted, participants on average focused the "virtual flashlight" in the top left quadrant. This study reveals that lateral lighting biases in artwork are not dependent on perception of local light source or interactions with discrete, concrete visual representations in the artwork.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)268-279
    Number of pages12
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011


    • Abstract
    • Art
    • Flashlight
    • Lateral bias
    • Lighting


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