Mona Lisa’s smile decoded: Science says she is happy

Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece “Mona Lisa“
Updated 11 March 2017

Mona Lisa’s smile decoded: Science says she is happy

PARIS: The subject of centuries of scrutiny and debate, Mona Lisa’s famous smile is routinely described as ambiguous. But is it really that hard to read?
Apparently not.
In an unusual trial, close to 100 percent of people described her expression as unequivocally “happy,” researchers revealed on Friday.
“We really were astonished,” neuroscientist Juergen Kornmeier of the University of Freiburg in Germany, who co-authored the study, told AFP.
Kornmeier and a team used what is arguably the most famous artwork in the world in a study of factors that influence how humans judge visual cues such as facial expressions.
Known as La Gioconda in Italian, the Mona Lisa is often held up as a symbol of emotional enigma.
The portrait appears to many to be smiling sweetly at first, only to adopt a mocking sneer or sad stare the longer you look.
Using a black and white copy of the early 16th century masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, a team manipulated the model’s mouth corners slightly up and down to create eight altered images — four marginally but progressively “happier,” and four “sadder” Mona Lisas.
A block of nine images were shown to 12 trial participants 30 times.
In every showing, for which the pictures were randomly reshuffled, participants had to describe each of the nine images as happy or sad.
“Given the descriptions from art and art history, we thought that the original would be the most ambiguous,” Kornmeier said.
Instead, “to our great astonishment, we found that Da Vinci’s original was... perceived as happy” in 97 percent of cases.
A second phase of the experiment involved the original Mona Lisa with eight “sadder” versions, with even more nuanced differences in the lip tilt.
In this test, the original was still described as happy, but participants’ reading of the other images changed.
The findings confirm that “we don’t have an absolute fixed scale of happiness and sadness in our brain” — and that a lot depends on context, the researcher explained.


Police raid K-pop agency over alleged illegal gambling

Updated 17 August 2019

Police raid K-pop agency over alleged illegal gambling

  • Yang Hyun-suk founder and ex-chief producer of YG Entertainment, resigned after drug and sex scandals rocked the company
  • Local news reports said Yang was alleged to have engaged in ‘habitual and illegal gambling’

SEOUL: South Korean police raided one of the biggest K-pop management firms on Saturday as part of an investigation into music mogul Yang Hyun-suk’s alleged illicit gambling.
Yang, founder and ex-chief producer of YG Entertainment, resigned from his post in June after drug and sex scandals rocked the company since March.
He was placed under formal investigation by police earlier this week over allegations of gambling involving illicit cash exchange along with Seungri, a former member of YG’s highly popular band BIGBANG.
“We are trying to gather evidence on how (Yang) secured funds for gambling, and how many times the alleged gambling took place,” a Seoul police officer told AFP.
Local news reports said Yang was alleged to have engaged in “habitual and illegal gambling,” in locations including Macau and Las Vegas since the early 2000s.
Yang was also separately placed under investigation by police last month for allegedly arranging sex services for foreign investors back in 2014.
A member of the popular boy band Seo Tae Ji and Boys in the 1990s, Yang developed YG into a K-pop powerhouse with the success of idol groups such as BIGBANG and BLACKPINK.
The firm is now considered one of South Korea’s top three entertainment agencies alongside SM and JYP, and was behind the 2012 mega hit “Gangnam Style” by Psy that helped raise K-pop’s global profile.
But it has been in hot water since Yang and some of its stars were implicated in a spate of scandals.
Seungri, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, retired in March after being accused of arranging sex services for potential investors in his business.
In June, fellow YG artist Kim Han-bin, a member of boyband iKon, left the group amid allegations he had bought illegal drugs three years ago — in a case Yang is also accused of trying to cover up.
Earlier this year, a building owned by another YG star Daesung also came under investigation over an allegation that four of its tenants were involved with illicit sex and drug businesses.