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I am specifically interested in works of art for which ratings on multiple dimensions are readily available--for instance, ratings of beauty or of liking that were acquired from a sample of volunteers. Features of interest also include the actual features of the artworks themselves, like brightness, complexity, etc. I have been pointed towards several options:
  1. Prediction of beauty and liking ratings for abstract and representational paintings using subjective and objective measures (
  2. JenAesthetics (
  3. The Strohminger Grotesque Art Database (
I wondered whether there might be others I am missing? Thanks, in advance, for any help anyone is able to provide!
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For those who remain interested in acquiring normed databases of artworks / aesthetic objects, a colleague recently suggested the Grappa Project's list of "Useful databases" ( Two of these databases look especially useful:
1. "Datasets used in computational aesthetics" (
I hope others might find this useful as well!
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Hi everybody -
I'm interested in getting a current picture of what academic institutions have interest in aesthetics and neuroaesthetics. Where are researchers in this field concentrated? Do you know of a psych or neuro department where student or faculty interest in this research area is increasing? Are there any new programs, courses, or centers out there? Do tell!
My obvious additions to this list:
  • Max Planck Inst. for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany
  • New York University (Psych Dept.)
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Aalto University Helsinki
You might be interested in our music review:
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I have reviewed the paper Specificity of Esthetic Experience for Artworks:
An fMRI Study - Di Dio, Canessa, Cappa and Rizzolati. The study compares photographs of two classical Greek sculptures with two contemporary young men in underwear and purports to derive some useful knowledge about the nature of aesthetic judgement. While I am not qualified to critique the experimental methods, I question assumptions underlying the study.
The study seems to ask this question: "What is the difference between looking at a Greek sculpture and looking at a dude in the gym change room?" As if the difference were simple. I contend the mater is far from simple. Let me elaborate why. The first complexity is the question of who is looking?
The first set of assumptions are about the normative (white? western? male?) viewer. Did the experimenters ask a Nuigini native or an Inuit? An Australian Aboriginal or a Mixtec?
Some people might be immediately outraged by being requires to view an image of a near-naked young male human, some might find the experience pleasurable.
In the case of viewing the images of two near-naked young men -  if the viewer is a gay male or a straight female, they might look at the images and wonder:
 Is he 'well hung'? Are his nipples pierced? Does he have a tattoo?
They might become sexually aroused.
A straight male or lesbian would likely not pursue such inquiry, but any viewer might ask "Am I looking at a genre of soft porn?"The images bear some resemblance to those by 'Tom of Finland'. 
They might look for markers of ethnic or social status:
What brand/style of underwear is he wearing?
Does he look smart or stupid?
What does his haircut tell me? Does he look like a neo-nazi skinhead?
Would I want to have conversation with him?
These and many other considerations will occur in any experimental subject.
Clearly, few are going to ask these questions about an archaic Greek sculpture.
To add another dimension of complexity:  these are images, representations, not the things themselves. As a moderately educated westerner, I know immediately I’m looking at an image of an archaic Greek sculpture, which fits into a particular version of cultural history which I am, to a greater or lesser extent, enculturated to. I can take a position, not about the sculptures as representations of naked guys, but as icons which stand for an entire historical and ideological narrative – I can endorse, reject, qualify, etc. Indeed, art history asks us to de-eroticise 'art', lest it become debased. This, in my opinion, is Victorian nonsense, but still very much part of the idea of 'art'.
The authors seem confident that there is such a thing as 'art', that we can distinguish between art and non-art, and that these Greek sculptures epitomise it. As an art professor, I dispute these assumptions. 
Further, as a culturally educated person, I read these images - regardless of what they represent - as, not just black and white (chemical) photographs indicative of a certain period of C20th image technology, but as offset lithographic translations of these photographs in mass paper media publication, possibly a compendious history of world art, circa 1970.
I may have opinions about such compendious histories of world art, and the way they reduce all artworks to small flat rectangles, and the way they thus create a false sense of continuity supporting a thesis about the history of art.
 The authors seem to feel that the Archaic Greek sculptures automatically qualify as some epitome of 'beauty'. This is indicative of an axiomatic endorsement of a theory of art history by the authors. I do not endorse this version of art history. I therefore do not automatically confer 'beauty or aesthetic value on these images. 
As I hope to have indicated,the ways contemporary westerners think about images is profoundly complex. To assume that fMRI data collected from subjects viewing these images represents aesthetic response, it to me, an unjustified assumption.
Simon Penny
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"Perhaps the difference is between applied research and basic research? "
I would say not. This 'experiment' is riddled with unexamined faulty assumptions. The question of what makes something aesthetic is a cultural question, and not a neuroscience question. The goals of this work are in the same dubious category as seeking the gay gene or the god neuron.
Most neuroaesthetic research is stuck in a C20th internalist/cogntivist frame, and it was this frame that caused the demise of first generation artificial intelligence, in the 1980s. Hence my reference to FAI. Brains (if you follow Edelman), and certainly minds, are formed by cultures.
Long ago, I used to like bluegrass music, now I hate it. Did my bluegrass neuron die? As a kid I did not like olives. Now i like them - did I grow an olive neuron? Without doubt, there are useful questions to ask about the behavior of the brain under different stimuli,