Positive fEMG patterns with ambiguity in paintings

Martina Jakesch, Juergen Goller*, Helmut Leder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

7 Citations (Scopus)


Whereas ambiguity in everyday life is often negatively evaluated, it is considered key in art appreciation. In a facial EMG study, we tested whether the positive role of visual ambiguity in paintings is reflected in a continuous affective evaluation on a subtle level. We presented ambiguous (disfluent) and non-ambiguous (fluent) versions of Magritte paintings and found that M. Zygomaticus major activation was higher and M. corrugator supercilii activation was lower for ambiguous than for non-ambiguous versions. Our findings reflect a positive continuous affective evaluation to visual ambiguity in paintings over the 5 s presentation time. We claim that this finding is indirect evidence for the hypothesis that visual stimuli classified as art, evoke a safe state for indulging into experiencing ambiguity, challenging the notion that processing fluency is generally related to positive affect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number785
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambiguity
  • Emotion
  • Empirical aesthetics
  • FEMG
  • Fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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