Babies and adults like bright Van Gogh art with lots of colour

Van Gogh's Green Corn Stalks was popular with adults and babies

Researchers at the University of Sussex in England suggest that adults’ liking for certain paintings by Vincent van Gogh is mirrored in babies, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

The study, published in the Journal of Vision, describes how babies aged between 18 and 40 weeks old and adults aged 18 to 43 years were shown pairs from a selection of 40 Van Gogh landscapes without any humans.

The babies were recorded on camera as they were shown the paintings for five seconds at at time. The adults were shown the same images and asked to select the ones they found most pleasant.

The team then used data from 25 adults to create an average pleasantness score for each artwork, and compared this with the average looking time from 25 infants.

“Although the shared variance is small, the current study nevertheless does find a significant relationship between infant looking and adult liking for art landscapes,” the researchers said.

The team found that babies stared longer at paintings with more variation in brightness and the range of colours, and that adults also gave them higher ratings.

Van Gogh’s Green Corn Stalks had the highest shared preference, the Guardian said.

Lead researcher Philip McAdam told the paper the findings were a bit of a surprise. Earlier research has suggested that babies look longer at colours that adults like and show a preference for Picasso over Monet, but no relationship between how long children stared at paintings and adults’ preferences for the works.

The researchers said the results suggest that infants have their own responses to art that are distinct from adults which are likely to be a result of both their visual immaturity and reduced visual experiences.

“It seems that there could be some link between this mature adult aesthetic response and these early sensory biases to things like luminance [and colour] contrast,” McAdams told the Guardian.

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