So You Want to Be A Scientist 2012 Experiments - Art and Emotion

Original Idea

Dara Djavan Khoshdel

Name: Dara Djavan Khoshdel

Occupation: Student

Age: 24

Location: Bournemouth

Question: Is it possible to predict the financial value of a painting by measuring people's emotional response?


Dara wanted to find out if people react more strongly to expensive artworks, even when they don't know how much the paintings cost.

He determined emotional reaction by measuring 'microsweating', how much people sweat when they look at each painting. The theory is that we sweat a tiny amount when we see something that arouses our senses.


Our data showed that there was no correlation between the monetary value of the painting and the emotional response to that particular painting as measured through microsweating.

We hypothesised that the emotional response to an artwork is reflected in the monetary value of that artwork. If conductance increases with value, we would expect the line to have a positive upwards slope, but what we actually found was that the slope was fairly flat.

People varied widely in their response. A separate analysis of variance showed that picture identity did not affect size of the galvanic skin response.

Gathering Data

Museum of Modern Art, Oxford

Twelve volunteers took part in the experiment which was held at Modern Art Oxford in March 2012. They viewed a dozen pictures featured in the Graham Sutherland exhibition.


The emotional response of people viewing the artworks was measured using a galvanometer. This analyses the electrical resistance of the skin, which is lowered slightly when we sweat.

Follow Dara's Research Diary on Facebook

To talk to Dara about his experiment, click 'like' to follow his Facebook research diary.

Scientific Mentor


Martin Kemp, Emeritus Prof of the History of Art, University of Oxford
Speciality: science and art (left)

Andrew Parker, Prof of Physiology, University of Oxford
Speciality: vision and cognition (right)

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