Current projects

Our research involves a wide range of topics and approaches. Current projects focus on beauty and morality, the built environment and wellness, and engagement with art.

Beauty and morality

Original image from the Chicago Face Database

Our research shows that people with facial anomalies, such as scars or paralysis, are viewed as having worse social traits. These problematic stereotypes are associated with implicit biases and neural responses suggestive of diminished empathy and possibly, dehumanization.

Original images from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

We also study how individuals are judged based on other physical features such as body weight. We examine whether these sorts of harmful biases are malleable and context dependent—for instance, when photographs are modified to look like works of art.

The built environment and wellness

Images by Steven Spassov, Jean-Philipe Delberghe, John Towner, and Manu Schwendener

What are the specific features of interior and exterior spaces that promote wellness? We investigate how various design features, such as ceiling height or wall curvature, can determine our experiences along certain psychological dimensions—coherence, fascination, and hominess.

Images from EwingCole

In collaboration with the architecture firm EwingCole, we're using neuroaesthetics principles to help design residential spaces for people with short term memory deficits. A new memory care facility incorporating these principles will be built in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

Engagement with art

Portrait of Louise-Antoinette Feuardent by Jean-François Millet, from the J. Paul Getty Museum online collection

There are many ways to measure the physical properties of an image. One approach is to study patterns in low level features, such as in the distribution of visual edges in a work of art. Based on the strength and orientation of edges, we can quantify properties such as visual complexity and measure the extent to which these properties affect our aesthetic preferences.

No. 22 by Jackson Pollock and Composition with Blue and Yellow by Piet Mondrian, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art online collection

Individuals perceive a varying quality of motion in abstract work by artists like Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian. We examine how this motion affects aesthetic preferences. We're also exploring whether preferences for motion are affected in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, who may have difficulty forming representations of action and movement.

Images from the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics

There is enormous variety in the universe of visual art. A powerful method to bring order to this chaos is network analysis. Networks help us cluster images that have similar physical properties or that have been described using similar language. These groupings help us reveal underlying patterns in how we respond to art and what drives our appreciation for beauty.

Neuroaesthetics projects are conducted through our associated research group, ChatLab. Website for ChatLab →

Neuroaesthetics publications

Humphries, S., Rick, J., Weintraub, D., & Chatterjee, A. (2021). Movement in aesthetic experiences: What we can learn from Parkinson's disease. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01718

Workman, C. I., Humphries, S., Hartung, F., Aguirre, G. K., Kable, J. W., & Chatterjee, A. (2021). Morality is in the eye of the beholder: The neurocognitive basis of the "anomalous‐is‐bad" stereotype. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14575

Zhao, X., Wang, J., Li, J., Luo, G., Li, T., Chatterjee, A., Zhang, W., & He, X. (2020). The neural mechanism of aesthetic judgments of dynamic landscapes: An fMRI study. Scientific Reports, 10, 20774. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-77658-y

Hayn-Leichsenring, G. U., Kenett, Y. N., Schulz, K., & Chatterjee, A. (2020). Abstract art paintings, global image properties, and verbal descriptions: An empirical and computational investigation. Acta Psychologica, 202, 102936. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2019.102936

Faust, N. T., Chatterjee, A., & Christopoulos, G. I. (2019). Beauty in the eyes and the hand of the beholder: Eye and hand movements' differential responses to facial attractiveness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 85, 103884. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2019.103884

Hartung, F., Jamrozik, A., Rosen, M. E., Aguirre, G., Sarwer, D. B., & Chatterjee, A. (2019). Behavioural and neural responses to facial disfigurement. Scientific Reports, 9, 8021. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44408-8

Nadal, M., & Chatterjee, A. (2019). Neuroaesthetics and art's diversity and universality. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 10(3), 1487. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1487

Jamrozik, A., Oraa Ali, M., Sarwer, D. B., & Chatterjee, A. (2019). More than skin deep: Judgments of individuals with facial disfigurement. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 13(1), 117–129. doi: 10.1037/aca0000147

Vartanian, O., Navarrete, G., Chatterjee, A., Fich, L. B., Leder, H., Modroño, C., Rostrup, N., Skov, M., Corradi, G., & Nadal, M. (2019). Preference for curvilinear contour in interior architectural spaces: Evidence from experts and nonexperts. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 13(1), 110–116. doi: 10.1037/aca0000150

Hayn-Leichsenring, G. U., & Chatterjee, A. (2019). Colliding terminological systems—Immanuel Kant and contemporary empirical aesthetics. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 37(2), 197–219. doi: 10.1177/0276237418818635

Belfi, A. M., Vessel, E. A., Brielmann, A., Isik, A. I., Chatterjee, A., Leder, H., Pelli, D. G., & Starr, G. G. (2019). Dynamics of aesthetic experience are reflected in the default-mode network. NeuroImage, 188, 584–597. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.12.017

Faust, N. T., Chatterjee, A., & Christopoulos, G. I. (2018). The effect of unrelated social exchanges on facial attractiveness judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 79, 290–300. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2018.08.010

Chatterjee, A. (2018). Beauty matters in ways we know and in ways we don’t. In D. J. Linden (Ed.), Think tank: Forty neuroscientists explore the bilogical roots of human experience (pp. 238–244). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Meghani, S. H., Peterson, C., Kaiser, D. H., Rhodes, J., Rao, H., Chittams, J., & Chatterjee, A. (2018). A pilot study of a mindfullness-based art therapy intervention in outpatients with cancer. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 35(9), 1195–1200. doi: 10.1177/1049909118760304

Chatterjee, A. (2017). Orange is the new aesthetic [Commentary on the journal article The Distancing-Embracing model of the enjoyment of negative emotions in art reception, by W. Menninghaus, V. Wagner, J. Hanich, E. Wassiliwizky, T. Jacobsen, & S. Koelsch]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40(355), 1–2. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X17001637

Coburn, A., Vartanian, O., & Chatterjee, A. (2017). Buildings, beauty, and the brain: A neuroscience of architectual experience. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(9), 1521–1531. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01146

Chatterjee, A. (2017). A cognitive aesthetics of literature and the arts [Review of the book Beauty and sublimity, by P. C. Hogan]. Cognitive Semiotics, 10(1), 41–47. doi: 10.1515/cogsem-2017-0003

Chatterjee, A., & Vartanian, O. (2016). Neuroscience of aesthetics. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1369(1), 172–194. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13035

Pearce, M. T., Zaidel, D. W., Vartanian, O., Skov, M., Leder, H., Chatterjee, A., & Nadal, M. (2015). Neuroaesthetics: The cognitive neuroscience of aesthetic experience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(2), 265–279. doi: 10.1177/1745691615621274

Pegors, T. K., Kable, J. W., Chatterjee, A., & Epstein, R. A. (2015). Common and unique representations in pFC for face and place attractiveness. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(5), 959–973. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00777

Vartanian, O., Navarrete, G., Chatterjee, A., Fich, L. B., Gonzalez-Mora, J. L., Leder, H., Modroño, C., Nadal, M., Rostrup, N., & Skov, M. (2015). Architectural design and the brain: Effects of ceiling height and perceived enclosure on beauty judgments and approach-avoidance decisions. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 41, 10–18. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.11.006

Graham, D., Schwarz, B., Chatterjee, A., Kircher, T., & Straube, B. (2014). Preference for luminance histogram regularities in natural scenes. Vision Research, 120, 11–21. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2015.03.018

Chatterjee, A., & Vartanian, O. (2014). Neuroaesthetics. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(7), 370–375. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.03.003

Chatterjee, A. (2014). Scientific aesthetics: Three steps forward. British Journal of Psychology, 105, 465–467. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12086

Chancellor, B., Duncan, A., & Chatterjee, A. (2014). Art therapy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 34, 1–11. doi: 10.3233/JAD-131295

Göksun, T., Kranjec, A., Chatterjee, A. (2014). The development of visual art preferences. In A. Kozbelt (Ed.), Proceedings of the twenty-third biennial congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics (pp. 223–225). New York, NY: International Association of Empirical Aesthetics.

Vartanian, O., Navarrete, G., Chatterjee, A., Fich, L. B., Leder, H., Modroño, C., Nadal, M., Rostrup, N., & Skov, M. (2013). Impact of contour on aesthetic judgments and approach-avoidance decisions in architecture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(2), 1–8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1301227110

van Buren, B., Bromberger, B., Potts, D., Miller, B., & Chatterjee A. (2013). Changes in painting styles of two artists with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7(1), 89–94. doi: 10.1037/a0029332

Chatterjee A. (2012). Neuroaesthetics: Growing pains of a new discipline. In A. P. Shimamura & S. E. Palmer (Eds.), Aesthetic science: Connecting minds, brains, and experience (pp. 219–317). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Chatterjee A. (2011). Where there be dragons: Finding the edges of neuroaesthetics. Aesthetics, 31(2), 4–6.

Chatterjee, A., Bromberger, B., Smith, W., Sternschein, R., & Widick, P. (2011). Artistic production following brain damage: A study of three artists. Leonardo, 44(5), 405–410. doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_00240

Chatterjee, A. (2011). Neuroaesthetics: A coming of age story. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(1), 53–62. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21457

Chatterjee, A., Thomas, A., Smith, S. E., & Aguirre, G. K. (2008). The neural response to facial attractiveness. Neuropsychology, 23(2), 135–143. doi: 10.1037/a0014430

Chatterjee, A., Hamilton, R. H., & Amorapanth, P. X. (2006). Art produced by a patient with Parkinson’s disease. Behavioural Neurology, 17(2), 105–108. doi: 10.1155/2006/901832

Chatterjee, A. (2006). The neuropsychology of visual art: Conferring capacity. International Review of Neurobiology, 74, 39–49. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7742(06)74003-X

Wilson A., & Chatterjee A. (2005). The assessment of preference for balance: Introducing a new test. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 23(2), 165–180. doi: 10.2190/B1LR-MVF3-F36X-XR64
Download the APB materials and instructions

Chatterjee A. (2004). The neuropsychology of visual artistic expression. Neuropsychologia, 42, 1568–1583. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.03.011

Chatterjee A. (2003). Prospects for a cognitive neuroscience of visual aesthetics. Bulletin of Psychology and the Arts, 4(2), 55–60. doi: 10.1037/e514602010-003

Chatterjee A. (2002). Portrait profiles and the notion of agency. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 20(1), 33–41. doi: 10.2190/3WLF-AGTV-0AW7-R2CN

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Neuroaesthetics resources


Assesssment of Art Attributes (AAA)

The AAA is an instrument designed to assess six formal-perceptual and six conceptual-representational attributes using 24 paintings from the Western canon.

Chatterjee, Widick, Sternschein, Smith, & Bromberger (2010)

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Assesssment of Preference for Balance (APB)

Here, we introduce the assessment of preference for balance (APB) and report a method to derive an objective balance score.

Wilson & Chatterjee (2005)

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Face Image Meta-Database (fIMDb)

The fIMDb provides detailed information about sources for face photographs intended for use in research.

The fIMDB is available on the website of Cliff Workman, Ph.D.

Visit fIMDb website


ChatLab Facial Anomaly Database (CFAD)

The CFAD was developed to facilitate research on biases towards individuals with facial anomalies. The database allows searching by age, sex, ethnicity, pose, and type/etiology of anomaly. Retrieve original stimuli or view images at various stages of pre-processing, e.g., normalized to interpupillary distance.

The CFAD is available on the website of Cliff Workman, Ph.D.

Visit CFAD website

Cardillo Metaphors

Cardillo Normed Metaphors

We provide 400 pairs of matched metaphoric and literal sentences. The set features metaphors of three types (nominal-entity, nominal-event, and predicate) and two modalities (sound, motion), and has been normed on 10+ psycholinguistic and theoretically-relevant properties (e.g. familiarity, interpretability, imageability, beauty).

Cardillo, Schmidt, Kranjec, & Chatterjee (2010)

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McQuire, McCollum, & Chatterjee (2016)

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Cardillo, Watson, & Chatterjee (2017)

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Ratinginstrument für zweidimensionale bildnerische Arbeiten (RizbA)—Rating Instrument for Two-Dimensional Pictorial Work

The RizbA is a 26-item survey designed to evaluate pictorial expression, as theoretically defined by 7 content areas: representation, color, shape, space, motion, composition, expression. English translations for survey items are provided in the original publication, and an empirically-validated version of the translated survey is in development.

Schoch, K., Gruber, H., Ostermann, T. (2017)

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