The MSc Psychology of the Arts, Neuroaesthetics and Creativity is the first postgraduate programme in the world for the scientific study of aesthetics and creativity.
At the intersection of the arts and the sciences, the programme introduces you to the psychology and the cognitive neuroscience of how humans generate new ideas, how we appreciate beauty, and how we form preferences.
Aesthetic and creative decisions are relevant in the visual and the performing arts, and in many applied and commercial contexts, ranging from clinical interventions to curating exhibitions, from dance choreography to marketing and advertising. Based in the Department of Psychology, in collaboration with Computing, Media and Communications and the Institute of Management Studies, the course builds critical knowledge, research and communication skills across the arts and the sciences, centred around two key topics: the psychological and brain mechanisms of making (Creativity) and appreciating (Neuroaesthetics) art. Conducting a research project with an interdisciplinary focus will prepare you for a research career in aesthetic or creative science, working in the creative industry, or to develop your artistic practice.
Goldsmiths is uniquely placed to offer this programme, with an internationally renowned reputation in the arts and the sciences. Existing courses combining art and psychology often have a largely therapeutic focus and rarely cover the psychology of aesthetic appreciation or creative cognition, in a broader profile. In contrast, business-oriented courses in marketing, advertising and consumer psychology often lack adequate scientific training in experimental psychology or cognitive neuroscience methods, which is required for a scientific approach to aesthetics and creativity. Optional modules based in the departments Media & Communications, Computing, and the Institute of Management Studies will complement and challenge the scientific perspective, acknowledging the richly diverse, unique and culturally-specific nature of human aesthetic and creative practice.
Contact the department
If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Dr Guido Orgs (Programme Director)
What you'll study
On this programme you will study the following modules:
Neuroaesthetics (15 Credits): This module provides an in-depth introduction into the cognitive neuroscience of art appreciation, aesthetic perception and judgement from a basic science and an applied perspective. Topics include: psychological theories of aesthetic appreciation, aesthetic evolution, brain mechanisms of pleasure and reward, face and body attractiveness, and aesthetic science across the visual and performing arts, in laboratory and real-world settings.
Creativity (15 credits): This module provides a comprehensive introduction to the science of creative cognition. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, this module covers latest research findings from various disciplines within cognitive psychology, social psychology, comparative and developmental psychology, creative arts and media, and neuroscience
Foundations of Neuroscience (15 credits): This module covers brain anatomy and function as well as an introduction to the available techniques to study the neural basis of behaviour. Topics range from single neuron architecture to the functional organization of brain systems. Neuroimaging methods covered include: fMRI, EEG, MEG and TMS.
Statistical Methods and Experimental Design (30 credits): This module covers experimental design and the theory and practice of quantitative data analysis. You will cover statistical techniques in the lectures, and learn to implement these techniques using statistical software in computer-based tutorials and workshops.
Research Skills/ Invited Speaker Series (15 credits): This module covers fundamental research skills: seminars on bibliographic searching, essay writing, research report writing, oral presentation skills, career planning and lab sessions. The second strand exposes students to cutting edge research in the field of aesthetic and creative cognition by means of an invited speaker series from a variety of academic disciplines, the creative industry and arts organizations. This module will be shared with students on the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain.
Research Project with an interdisciplinary focus (60 credits): You will conduct a quantitative research project in relation to aesthetics or creativity. The course encourages interdisciplinary and collaborative projects with other departments at Goldsmiths, or with external partners such as arts organizations or the creative industry.
Optional Modules (2 x 15 credits): You will choose two optional modules from within the Psychology Department (Advanced Quantitative Methods, Magic and the Mind) or collaborating Departments including Computing (Physical Computing and Workshops in Creative Coding), Media and Communications (Embodiment and Experience, Politics of the Audio-visual) and the Institute of Management Studies (Psychology of Marketing and Advertising, Consumer Behaviour). Optional modules will complement the scientific perspective with alternative views, approaches and extend your knowledge and skill base.
Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.
You should have an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class in Psychology or a related subject (Cognitive Science, Neuroscience) with a research component. However, we explicitly encourage candidates with interdisciplinary and unusual biographies to apply. Applicants with undergraduate degrees in the visual or performing arts, design, humanities, business or other non-scientific subjects will be required to demonstrate sufficient background knowledge and experience with psychological or cognitive neuroscience approaches, including statistics. Please contact the programme leader directly if you are unsure as to whether you would qualify for this programme.
Pre-sessional courses at no additional costs will be offered to those who lack the necessary background or need a refresher in Statistics.
Applications from overseas students are welcome. Students whose first language is not English will be asked to provide evidence of their English language skills.
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.
If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing and no element lower than 6.0 to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.
Fees, funding & scholarships
How to apply
Acquainting yourself with some of the recommended reading below will equip you well for the interview and for the course in general.
Aesthetic Science and Creative Cognition
- Shimamura, A.P, Palmer S.E. (2012). Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains and Experience. Oxford University Press.
- Huston, J. P., Nadal, M., Mora, F., Agnati, L. F., Cela-Conde, C. J. (2015). Art, Aesthetics and the Brain. Oxford University Press.
Neuroscience and Research Methods
Foundations of Neuroscience
- Ward, J. (2006). The Student's Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience. Psychology Press.
Experimental Design and Statistics
- Field, A. & Hole, G. (2007). How to Design and Report Experiments. Sage.
- Field, A. (2012). Discovering Statistics Using R (2nd ed). Sage.
The course provides a unique combination of scientific methods and psychological theory on the one hand, and principles of aesthetic and creative practice on the other. The course will equip you with a unique skill set that will allow you to bridge the arts and the sciences.
As a graduate of this course, you will be especially suitable for a career in advertising (planning and strategy), curating or arts management. Neuroscientific methods and theories of aesthetic or creative science are not normally taught in other courses on, for example, consumer psychology, arts management, curating or arts-based therapy. Based on the combination of scientific methods with interdisciplinary knowledge in aesthetic and creative practice, you will have a unique advantage in applying for jobs at the intersection of the arts and sciences.
- Doing a PhD in the growing international research field of creative science and (neuro)aesthetics
- Working in the creative industries. For example, advertising, market research, brand strategy and consulting
- Arts management and curating, arts education or even as research focussed preparation for art-based clinical interventions and therapy
Students from the course have created their own website where they're sharing examples of their work and their thoughts about the neural correlates of aesthetic experiences and creative actions. Read more about the work they're doing.