Shadows alter facial expressions of Noh masks.

PLoS ONE. 2013;8(8):e71389 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0071389

 

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Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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AUTHORS

Nobuyuki Kawai
Hiromitsu Miyata
Ritsuko Nishimura
Kazuo Okanoya

EDITORIAL INFORMATION

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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

BACKGROUND: A Noh mask, worn by expert actors during performance on the Japanese traditional Noh drama, conveys various emotional expressions despite its fixed physical properties. How does the mask change its expressions? Shadows change subtly during the actual Noh drama, which plays a key role in creating elusive artistic enchantment. We here describe evidence from two experiments regarding how attached shadows of the Noh masks influence the observers' recognition of the emotional expressions. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In Experiment 1, neutral-faced Noh masks having the attached shadows of the happy/sad masks were recognized as bearing happy/sad expressions, respectively. This was true for all four types of masks each of which represented a character differing in sex and age, even though the original characteristics of the masks also greatly influenced the evaluation of emotions. Experiment 2 further revealed that frontal Noh mask images having shadows of upward/downward tilted masks were evaluated as sad/happy, respectively. This was consistent with outcomes from preceding studies using actually tilted Noh mask images. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Results from the two experiments concur that purely manipulating attached shadows of the different types of Noh masks significantly alters the emotion recognition. These findings go in line with the mysterious facial expressions observed in Western paintings, such as the elusive qualities of Mona Lisa's smile. They also agree with the aesthetic principle of Japanese traditional art "yugen (profound grace and subtlety)", which highly appreciates subtle emotional expressions in the darkness.