Donnerstag, 23. November 2017, 17:00 - 18:30 iCal

Talk of Dr. M. Bertamini (University of Liverpool)

Composition in pictures and in films, and the special case of images of mirrors

Fakultät für Psychologie, Hörsaal G, 2. Stock (linke Stiege)
Liebigasse 5, 1010 Wien


Spatial composition has a central role in visual art. Various principles of balance have been discussed in the literature, starting with the work of Arnheim. Issues of proportions have also been studied extensively, and they are relevant for image composition (e.g. golden ratio, rule of thirds, eye centering). I will discuss empirical studies on works of art, showing how subtle changes of the image (such as a mirror reversal) affect preference and expressiveness. In one study the reversal was applied not to a static image but to two films by Kurosawa. Issues of composition also affect the choice that people make when taking selfies. This phenomenon allows us to explore composition in large samples of non experts. In a separate line of research I have also explore people's naïve understanding of mirror. Although mirrors are familiar objects in our environment, many simple aspects of mirror reflections are surprising for a large number of children and adults. This difficulty in understanding how mirrors work leads to prediction errors. We can identify two types of errors. The first type relates to questions of what can be seen from where. This issue is linked with the role of the viewpoint in perception and in memory. It is the explanation for the Venus effect. The second type relates to information on the surface of the mirror itself. This issue relate to size constancy, distance perception and the nature of the distal stimulus. The nature of these two types of errors is different, and I will also illustrate both of them with a series of studies and also in relation to some works of art in which mirrors are present. Indeed artists across the centuries have taken advantage of certain aspects of mirror cognition.


Bennett, K.M. Latto, R.M. Bertamini, M. Bianchi, I. & Minshull, S. (2010). Does Left-Right Orientation Matter in the Perceived Expressiveness of Pictures? A study of Bewick's animals (1753-1828).

Bertamini, M. Bennett, K.M. & Bode, C. (2011). The anterior bias in visual art: The case of images of animals. Laterality, 16, 673-689.

Bertamini, M. Bode, C., & Bruno, N. (2011). The effect of left-right reversal on film: Watching Kurosawa reversed. i-Perception, 2, 528-540.

Bertamini, M., & Parks, T.E. (2005). On what people know about images on mirrors. Cognition. 98, 85-104.

Bode, C. Bertamini, M. & Helmy, M. (2016). Left-right position in moving images: An analysis of face orientation, face position, and movement direction in eight action films. Art & Perception, 4, 241-263.

Bruno, N., & Bertamini, M. (2013). Self-Portraits: Smartphones Reveal a Side Bias in Non-Artists PLoS ONE, 8(2): e55141

Bruno, N., Bode, C. & Bertamini, M. (2016). Composition in portraits: selfies and wefies reveal similar biases in untrained modern youths and ancient masters. Laterality, 22(3), 279-293.

Croucher, C.J., Bertamini, M., & Hecht, H. (2002). Naive optics: Understanding the geometry of mirror reflections. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28, 546-562.


Institut für Psychologische Grundlagenforschung und Forschungsmethoden/EVA Lab


Abla Marie-José Bedi
Institut für Psycholgogische Grundlagenforschung und Forschungsmethoden