Nonverbally Mirror My Style And You’ll Love My Painting
Christopher Philip

According to researchers led by Helmut Leder, University of Vienna, your appreciation for art can be influenced by mimicking the style used to produce it.

In the study, subjects either mimicked a strokestyle or pointillist-style painting method. The researchers figured that using the same type of hand movements which the artist used to produce the painting, would produce more appreciation for the piece.

Next, the subjects rated five neoimpressionist, pointillist-style paintings and five postimpressionist, strokestyle paintings.

In the trials, the participants were asked to perform the various painting styled movements with their dominant hand. However, these movements were hidden from their view by a folding screen on the table. This was used in order to avoid a perceptual matching effect. The hand movements were executed 5 minutes before offering their evaluations of the various art pieces.

The researchers found that appreciate art for the sake of its aesthetics only might not represent the entire picture.

“Our results show that even static materializations (the painting style) of an absent—and long deceased—artist’s actions can influence a viewer’s experience and preference,” say the researchers in their paper.

The results also demonstrate how powerful mimicry is on our perceptions – when we mirror the motions of others, it creates liking because it helps up build empathy.


Leder, Helmut; Siegrun Bär and Sascha Topolinskiz. Covert Painting Simulations Influence Aesthetic Appreciation of Artworks. Psychological Science. 2012. 23(12) 1479-1481.