Research

Latest Publication:

Estrada Gonzalez, V., Meletaki, V., Walker, M., Payano Sosa, J., Stamper, A., Srikanchana, R., ... & Chatterjee, A. (2024). Art therapy masks reflect emotional changes in military personnel with PTSS. Scientific Reports, 14(1), 7192. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-57128-5 

Current Projects

Our research involves a wide range of topics and approaches. Current projects focus on beauty and moralitythe built environment and wellness, and engagement with art. On this page, you can also find our publications & resources.


Woman's face with scarring across the forehead and chin
Modified photo from the Chicago Face Database

Beauty and Morality

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.

Recent work:

Villavisanis, D. F., Workman, C. I., Zapatero, Z. D., Vu, G. H., Humphries, S. A., Blum, J. D., Cho, D.Y., Swanson, J.W., Bartlett, S.P., Chatterjee, A. & Taylor, J. A. (2023). Visual Attention, Bias, and Social Dispositions Toward People with Facial Anomalies: A Prospective Study with Eye-Tracking Technology. Annals of Plastic Surgery, 90(5), 482-486. https://doi.org/10.1097/sap.0000000000003435


A partially-outdoor patio space with smooth marble and glass surfaces
Photo by Jean-Philipe Delberghe

The Built Environment and Wellness

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.

Recent work:

Weinberger, A. B., Garside, E. W., Christensen, A. P., & Chatterjee, A. (2022). Effects of expertise on psychological responses to buildings and natural landscapes. Journal of Environmental Psychology84, 101903. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2022.101903


Engagement with Art

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.


Composition with Blue and Yellow by Piet Mondrian
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.

Recent work:

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, 33(7) 1329–1342. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01718


Network diagram showing relationships among various artworks
Diagram 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.

Recent work:

Christensen, A. P., Cardillo, E. R., & Chatterjee, A. (2022). What kind of impacts can artwork have on viewers? Establishing a taxonomy for aesthetic impacts. British Journal of Psychologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12623


Publications & Resources 

Publications on topics in neuroaesthetics

Publications on other topics in cognitive neuroscience

Language & Space

Event Representation

Neuroethics

Miscellaneous

Resources for conducting research in neuroaesthetics

PCfN Artwork Repository (beta)

The PCfN has curated a collection of 300+ art images suitable for use in empirical aesthetics research. The collection intentionally samples from underrepresented cultures and each image is normed on beauty, liking, familiarity, and 11 aesthetic impact terms.

Estrada Gonzalez, V.*; Bobrow, B.; Cardillo, E.R.; Kim, O.; Meletaki, V.; Chatterjee, A. (Manuscript in preparation).

↳ App for stimuli exploration

Aesthetic Cognitivism

Review of the psychology and neuroscience of aesthetic cognitivism with semantic maps and dimensions of descriptive and impact aesthetic cognitivism terms.

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Open Science Framework Page

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Assessment 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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Assessment 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.

Workman & Chatterjee (2021)

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↳ 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.

Workman & Chatterjee (2021)

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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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Books and Chapters

Beauty, Brain, & Art: Essays Bringing Neuroaesthetics in Focus. Edited by Anjan Chatterjee and Eileen R. Cardillo.Book cover for "Brain, Beauty, and Art: Essays Bringing Neuroaesthetics in Focus"

Aesthetics has long been the preserve of philosophy, art history, and the creative arts but, more recently, the fields of psychology and neuroscience have entered the discussion, and the field of neuroaesthetics has been born.

In Brain, Beauty, and Art, leading scholars in this nascent field reflect on the promise of neuroaesthetics to enrich our understanding of this universal yet diverse facet of human experience. The volume consists of essays from foundational researchers whose empirical work launched the field. Each essay is anchored to an original, peer-reviewed paper from the short history of this new and burgeoning subdiscipline of cognitive neuroscience. Authors of each essay were asked three questions: 1) What motivated the original paper? 2) What were the main findings or theoretical claims made? and, 3) How do those findings or claims fit with the current state and anticipated near future of neuroaesthetics? Together, these essays establish the territory and current boundaries of neuroaesthetics and identify its most promising future directions. Topics include models of neuroaesthetics, and discussions of beauty, art, dance, music, literature, and architecture.

Brain, Beauty, and Art will inform and stimulate anyone with an abiding interest in why it is that, across time and culture, we respond to beauty, engage with art, and are affected by music and architecture.


The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art. By Anjan ChatterjeeThe Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art

The Aesthetic Brain takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey through the world of beauty, pleasure, and art. Chatterjee uses neuroscience to probe how an aesthetic sense is etched in our minds and evolutionary psychology to explain why aesthetic concerns feature centrally in our lives. Along the way, Chatterjee addresses fundamental questions: What is beauty? Is beauty universal? How is beauty related to pleasure? What is art? Should art be beautiful? Do we have an instinct for art? Chatterjee starts by probing the reasons that we find people, places, and even numbers beautiful. At the root of beauty, he finds, is pleasure. He then examines our pleasures by dissecting why we want and why we like food, sex, and money and how these rewards relate to aesthetic encounters. His ruminations on beauty and pleasure prepare him and the reader to face art. He wanders through the problems of defining art, understanding contemporary art, and interpreting ancient art. He explores why art, something that seems so useless, also feels fundamental to our humanity. Replete with facts, anecdotes, and analogies, this empirical guide to aesthetics offers scientific answers without deflating the wonders of beauty and art.


Chapters

Adamaszek, M., Cattaneo, Z., Ciricugno, A. & Chatterjee, A. (2022). The Cerebellum and beauty: The impact of the cerebellum on art experience and creativity. In: Adamaszek, M., Manto, M., Schutter, D.J.L.G. (eds) The Emotional Cerebellum: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol 1378. Springer, Cham.

Coburn, A., Weinberger, A., & Chatterjee, A. (2022). How architectural design influences emotions, physiology, and behavior. In The Routledge International Handbook of Neuroaesthetics (pp. 194-217). Routledge.

Kenett, Y. N., & Chatterjee, A. (2021). The Neuroscience of Well-Being: A General Framework and Its Relation to Humanistic Flourishing. In The Oxford Handbook of the Positive Humanities (p. 129). Oxford University Press.

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 biological roots of human experience (pp. 238–244). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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.