Research

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.


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.


Painting of Louise-Antoinette Feuardent by Jean-François Millet with image processing to show strength of gradients
Portrait of Louise-Antoinette Feuardent by Jean-François Millet, from the J. Paul Getty Museum online collection

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.


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.


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

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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↳ Visit CFAD website

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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↳ View preprint (available on Zenodo)

↳ Download materials (available on Zenodo)