Scientists with the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have exhibited through behavioral research and brain scans using functional MRI (fMRI) that financial favors can impact people’s assessments of artworks, however, not if the audience can be an art expert. P. Read Montague, a founding director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the computational psychiatry device at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

The article builds upon prior research by Harvey, Montague, and Kirk, which demonstrated that sponsorship will bias viewers’ art view. The experts enlisted 20 non-experts and 20 experts for their study. Professionals were selected based on formal education in a visual art-related area and at the least five-year’s experience employed in a visual-art area. 300 for his or her participation.

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Then these were shown works of art with the logo design of 1 of the firms next to the image. Contemporary art made by artwork students from the Slade School of Art, University College London, was used to ensure that all paintings were new to the participants. Harvey said. “The public gestures can be a variety of things – telling someone how much a painting costs, that it is famous, that it is owned by someone famous” all can bias preference about artwork. In the behavioral study, most non-experts preferred the paintings shown next to the sponsoring logo design of the business that they had been told was paying them, while there was no aftereffect of sponsorship within the expert group.

The researchers asked, “If this is happening in the behavior study, then what’s happening in the mind?” Kirk was interested in learning what part of the brain mitigates sponsorship preference in art experts. Using functional MRI to observe blood-oxygen-level signals in particular regions of interest as people in the scanning device viewed art, he discovered that artwork non-experts and experts activated different regions of their brains when making decisions. Previous neuroimaging findings have established that monetary favors lead to responses from the region of the brain associated with forming preferences and making value judgments – the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC).

Those parts of the brain are more vigorous in non-experts when art is shown with the logo of the business that is purported to be paying them. However, the VMPFC had not been significantly lit up in the art experts’ brains. Instead, the DLPFC region was more vigorous in the experts’ brains, “which suggests that the experts are interesting this section of the brain to modify bias susceptibility,” said Kirk.

Interestingly, DLPFC activity was also raised in the few non-expert subjects who had not displayed a substantial sponsorship bias in their artwork preferences. The analysts may also see this behavior in the neuroimaging part of the research when they viewed the connectivity of both regions of the brain.

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