Individuals seem to behold works of art in different ways. Art historians have been discussing this for over hundred years and focused on group-specific similarities, especially those based on geographic, historical or social commonalities. There are many attempts to postulate a historical variety of culturally determined visual modalities. They are based on the analysis of artifacts and written sources. Since it is impossible to capture the act of seeing post hoc all of them necessarily remain hypothetical.

This projects is based on previous studies in the world-wide first eye-tracking laboratory in an art history department (principal investigator: Raphael Rosenberg) and deepens its collaboration with the Department for Psychological Basic Research of the University of Vienna (cooperation partner: Helmut Leder). The central element are comparative studies that address the differences and similarities in Japanese and Austrian participants respectively men and women. Our initial hypothesis predicts an impact on art perception of diverse cultural socialization. The first part of the study will take place in eye-tracking-laboratories, the second in a genuine museum context (cooperation partner: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien).
A newly developed eye-tracking system will allow for the very first time a laboratory-museum comparison of eye-movements during art perception. We will use a software (“Eye-Trace”) that we have especially developed for the treatment of eye-tracking data from an art-historical perspective in order to focus not only on usual oculometric parameters (i.e. duration of fixations, length of saccades and heat maps) but also on the direction and structure of frequently-repeated saccades that have proven to be intrinsically correlated to the composition of art works.
By analyzing culturally-determined differences with contemporary spectators we hope to identify the levels and factors of possible historical variances of art perception.