Dr Rebecca Chamberlain

Staff details

Dr Rebecca Chamberlain






r.chamberlain (@gold.ac.uk)

Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups

Rebecca’s research sets out to understand how and why individuals create and respond so powerfully to works of art.

Among the many skills that humans evolved to design their environments, art-making is among the oldest, far predating evidence of written communication. Rebecca’s research sets out to understand how and why individuals create and respond so powerfully to works of art. Rebecca studied for a foundation degree in Art and Design at the University of the Arts, London before moving into cognitive science. She completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Experimental Psychology at University College London researching the psychology and neuroscience of representational drawing ability. Rebecca worked in Professor Johan Wagemans’ Gestalt Perception lab at KU Leuven in Belgium as a postdoctoral researcher in 2013, before joining Goldsmiths as a lecturer in 2017. She is currently Programme Director of the MSc in Psychology of the Arts, Neuroaesthetics and Creativity and Editor-in-Chief at Empirical Studies of the Arts (https://journals.sagepub.com/home/art) .

Research interests

Rebecca’s research focuses on the psychology and neuroscience of the production and perception of visual art. She is particularly interested in the mechanisms by which artists acquire their expertise, and the impact of engagement with the visual arts can have on education and mental health. She is also interested in how individual differences in perception interact with learning and cognition.

  • Aesthetics of visual art
  • Artistic expertise
  • Creativity
  • The role of art-making in education and mental health
  • Individual differences in attention and perception
  • Perception in neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. dyslexia / autism spectrum disorder)

Grants and awards

2023: Embodied Agents in Contemporary Visual Art
AHRC-DFG collaborative grant

2022: Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten Award
Outstanding Contributions of Young Scientists, International Association of Empirical Aesthetics (IAEA)

2021: Mindfulness in the Gallery
APA Division 10 Microgrant

2018: Embodiment and expertise in graffiti art
BA / Leverhulme Small Research Grant

2014: Artistic expertise and visual attention
Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) Post-doctoral Fellowship

2010: Cognition and neuroscience of representational drawing
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 1+3 PhD Studentship

Publications and research outputs

Book Section

Pelowski, Matthew and Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2023. Where Do Artists Come From? A Review of the ‘Typical’ Visually Creative Life and Artistic Brain as a Basis for Discussing Neurodivergence or Neurodegenerative Change. In: Alby Richard; Matthew Pelowski and Blanca T. M. Spee, eds. Art and Neurological Disorders: Illuminating the intersection of creativity and the changing brain. Cham, Switzerland: Humana Press, pp. 25-63. ISBN 9783031147234

Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2022. Perception and cognition in visual art experience. In: Marcos Nadal and Martin Skov, eds. Routledge International Handbook of Neuroaesthetics. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9780367442743

Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2022. The interplay of objective and subjective factors in empirical aesthetics. In: Bogdan Ionescu; Wilma A. Bainbridge and Naila Murray, eds. Human Perception of Visual Information: Psychological and Computational Perspectives. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 115-132. ISBN 9783030814649


Campagna, Marella and Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2024. How material sensory properties and individual differences influence the haptic aesthetic appeal of visually presented stimuli. Scientific Reports, 14, 13690. ISSN 2045-2322

Drake, Jennifer; Riccio, A; Chamberlain, Rebecca and Kozbelt, Aaron. 2024. Artists have superior local and global processing abilities but show a preference for initially drawing globally. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 18(3), pp. 357-371. ISSN 1931-3896

Graywill, Kelsey and Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2024. The visual language of pain: the role of rendering style and pain type in aesthetic and empathetic appraisals of painful images. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, ISSN 1931-3896

Media engagements

2022: BBC World Service Crowd Science episode on "are artistic brains different?"
On this podcast Rebecca talks about the nature of artistic expertise

2023: BBC Radio 4 series on Taste
On this programme Rebecca discusses the biological basis of taste

Public Engagement

Rebecca has been involved with a number of public engagement activities including:

  • Radio appearances for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service
  • Online events for the Courtauld Gallery
  • Debunking brain myths as part of Brain Awareness Week
  • A slow looking tour at the Tate Modern