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Mystery Behind Mona Lisa's Smile Decoded: She Is Happy, Suggests New Research

13 March 2017, 6:59 am EDT By Amy Gordon Tech Times
A replica of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. The mystery behind Mona Lisa's smile in the iconic painting had finally been solved. Researchers conducted a study to decode the smile and reveal that Mona Lisa was happy.  ( Palani Mohan | Getty Images )

The mystery behind one of the most studied and analyzed paintings in the world, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa has been demystified.

People have been confounded by Mona Lisa's mysterious smile, but now researchers have managed to decode the meaning. Yes the mystery has finally been solved and in an unusual trial, almost 100 percent people expressed that Mona Lisa has a happy smile.

According to a statement from Juergen Kornmeier, neuroscientist at the University of Freiburg in Germany, who co-authored the study, the result has left the researchers amazed.

The Study

Kornmeier and his team conducted a study to determine the factors that impacts human to judge any visual cue such as facial expressions. For the purpose, the researchers used the painting Mona Lisa, which is controversially the most famous piece of art in the world.

The Mona Lisa, which is known as La Gioconda in Italian, is often considered a representation of emotional paradox.

At the first glance, many people see the portrait where Mona Lisa is smiling sweetly but the longer they look at the painting, it seems that the expression is changing and the smile is becoming a smirk or a depressed stare.

The team used a monochromatic photocopy of the original masterpiece created in early 16th century by da Vinci and edited the corners of the mouth of the model, making it moderately variable to make eight different version of images. Four of these images were slightly but considerably happier and remainder were comparatively sadder.

After this, a section of 9 images were exhibited to 12 preliminary participants 30 times. For each time, the pictures were rearranged in a random order and the participants were supposed to express their feelings about the nine images whether they are happy or unhappy.

What Did The Study Reveal?

To their surprise, the researchers found that 97 percent participants considered the original version of Mona Lisa to be happy.  

"Given the descriptions from art and art history, we thought that the original would be the most ambiguous," said Kornmeier,

In another experiment, the original version of Mona Lisa was still considered as happy, but participants' perception about the other images changed. They were interpreted as a little sadder than the previous experiment shared Kornmeier.

The researcher describes that the findings of the study determine that there is no fixed scale of happiness or sadness in the human brain; it significantly depends on the surrounding. He also added that our brain responds rapidly and scans the context to determine our estimates by using our previous memories of sensory experiences. According to Kornmeier, the process may help the study of psychiatric disorders.

The research discovered another interesting fact that people found it easier to spot happier Mona Lisa's rather than the sad ones, which hints that human beings likely prefer happiness over sadness.

The team believes that their research has finally solved the mystery. 

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