Posted in communication and networking, design and architecture, medical imaging

How artists tap into the brain’s emotional side

the-crucifixionIn the spirit of Christmas, a very interesting article on how artists who have portrayed Jesus, both during the crucifixion and often just general paintings of him, showed the left side of his face most often, and why that matters:

Fifteen hundred years ago, in the region that is modern-day Syria, a scribe drew a scene depicting the crucifixion of Christ. Before or after he conjured the mountains, the cross and the executioners, he drew Jesus’ face turned to the right, his left cheek toward the viewer.

Fast forward a thousand years to Europe and we find the German painter and politician Albrecht Altdorfer departing from convention by depicting the crucifixion of Christ on the shore of a river. When it came to Jesus’ face, however, Altdorfer was more conformist, painting his head turned to the right, left cheek towards the viewer.

These painters noticed, perhaps subconsciously, that the expression of emotion is more intense via the left side of the face, and therefore they chose to depict Jesus with that side of his face on display.

By making Jesus’ left-cheek prominent, crucifixion artists may have taken unknowing advantage of other facts from neuroscience too. With his head turned to the right, Jesus’ face will be processed mostly by the viewer’s right hemisphere – the side of the brain that is preferentially activated when interpreting emotion, especially negative emotion. There’s even research suggesting that turning the head to one side activates the brain hemisphere on the opposite side. “Since the left hemisphere mediates positive emotions and the right negative emotions, the rotation of Christ’s head during the crucifixion may have helped reduce his suffering,” write Acosta and her colleagues.

Read more…



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.