When someone is moved while viewing a work of art, his or her physiology changes. Psychophysiological responses are an integral part of the emotions that people experience.
If analysed properly, these responses can provide important evidence on the emotional experience an individual has when he or she looks at a work of art. Knowing the emotional impact of one or more works of art on a bystander is a key indicator for creating the best experience in terms of art enjoyment.
This is why the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center has asked the TSW Experience Lab to evaluate the emotional impact of some of the works of art on display at Gallerie d’Italia Intesa Sanpaolo Piazza Scala in Milan. The goal of the investigation is to record the emotions of visitors, so as to be able to create the most engaging experience for visitors to the museum.
A group of 30 people were involved in the experience. They each viewed four works from the Intesa Sanpaolo Gallerie d’Italia Piazza Scala collection:
As the participants viewed the works of art, special instruments were used to record their psychophysiological responses, specifically eye movements and activity levels of the central and peripheral nervous systems. The technology used to obtain this information included eye-tracking glasses, EEG and SCL bracelets.
These tools enabled us to gain an understanding of the aspects of an artwork that attracted the most attention from the beholders, what emotional impact the artwork produced in observers and the nature of the involvement of the people who had the aesthetic experience.
After evaluating the psychophysiological responses of the 30 participants, it seems that among the four works considered, the ones with the greatest emotional intensity were The Last Supperby Procaccini and The Martyrdom of Saint Ursulaby Caravaggio . The first of the two paintings generated a higher level of engagement, while the Caravaggio seemed to produce a more pleasant experience.
The ultimate goal of the research was to discover how to create the most engaging experience for visitors to the museum. An awareness of the most impactful works for people could be the basis for the creation of a structured itinerary of aesthetic enjoyment in which these works could serve as primary elements.
But that’s not all. The users’ responses reveal the aspects that catch people’s attention when they see an artwork, but they also detect the meanings that do not emerge immediately from the viewing of the work. If brought into relief, these aspects could enrich the very experience of aesthetic appreciation. These are elements that may be connected to the life and experience of the artist; they may bring added value to the work and help viewers grasp the intrinsic and not immediately perceptible meanings.
All these possibilities can be made use of through the creation of ad hoc content in support of the artworks within the exhibition space, so that it also becomes part of the experience of aesthetic enjoyment.
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