• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of procbhomepageaboutsubmitalertseditorial board
Proc Biol Sci. Aug 7, 1999; 266(1428): 1517–1522.
PMCID: PMC1690171

Laterality of expression in portraiture: putting your best cheek forward.

Abstract

Portraits, both photographic and painted, are often produced with more of one side of the face showing than the other. Typically, the left side of the face is overrepresented, with the head turned slightly to the sitter's right. This leftward bias is weaker for painted male portraits and non-existent for portraits of scientists from the Royal Society. What mechanism might account for this bias? Examination of portraits painted by left- and right-handers and of self-portraits suggests that the bias is not determined by a mechanical preference of the artist or by the viewer's aesthetics. The leftward bias seems to be determined by the sitters and their desire to display the left side of their face, which is controlled by the emotive, right cerebral hemisphere. When we asked people to portray as much emotion as possible when posing for a family portrait, they tended to present the left side of their face. When asked to pose as scientists and avoid portraying emotion, participants tended to present their right side. The motivation to portray emotion, or conceal it, might explain why portraits of males show a reduced leftward bias, and also why portraits of scientists from the Royal Society show no leftward bias.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (164K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Borod JC, Haywood CS, Koff E. Neuropsychological aspects of facial asymmetry during emotional expression: a review of the normal adult literature. Neuropsychol Rev. 1997 Mar;7(1):41–60. [PubMed]
  • Bradshaw JL, Bradshaw JA, Nettleton NC. Abduction, adduction and hand differences in simple and serial movements. Neuropsychologia. 1990;28(9):917–931. [PubMed]
  • Chen AC, German C, Zaidel DW. Brain asymmetry and facial attractiveness: facial beauty is not simply in the eye of the beholder. Neuropsychologia. 1997 Apr;35(4):471–476. [PubMed]
  • Coles PR. Profile orientation and social distance in portrait painting. Perception. 1974;3(3):303–308. [PubMed]
  • Conesa J, Brunold-Conesa C, Miron M. Incidence of the half-left profile pose in single-subject portraits. Percept Mot Skills. 1995 Dec;81(3 Pt 1):920–922. [PubMed]
  • Freimuth M, Wapner S. The influence of lateral organization on the evaluation of paintings. Br J Psychol. 1979 May;70(2):211–218. [PubMed]
  • Mandal MK, Tandon SC, Asthana HS. Right brain damage impairs recognition of negative emotions. Cortex. 1991 Jun;27(2):247–253. [PubMed]
  • Mattingley JB, Bradshaw JL, Nettleton NC, Bradshaw JA. Can task specific perceptual bias be distinguished from unilateral neglect? Neuropsychologia. 1994 Jul;32(7):805–817. [PubMed]
  • Nelson TM, MacDonald GA. Lateral organization, perceived depth and title preference in pictures. Percept Mot Skills. 1971 Dec;33(3):983–986. [PubMed]
  • Sackeim HA, Gur RC, Saucy MC. Emotions are expressed more intensely on the left side of the face. Science. 1978 Oct 27;202(4366):434–436. [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society

Formats:

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...

Links

  • MedGen
    MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...