Dr Rebecca Chamberlain

Staff details

Position Lecturer
Department Psychology
Email r.chamberlain (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone +44 (0)20 7919 7873
Dr Rebecca Chamberlain

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) .

Teaching and Supervision

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)

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

Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2017. The development of expertise in the visual arts. In: D. Z Hambrick; G Campitelli and B. N Macnamara, eds. The Science of Expertise: Behavioral, Neural, and Genetic Approaches to Complex Cognition. London; New York: Routledge, pp. 129-150. ISBN 9781138204386


Fan, Judith. E.; Bainbridge, Wilma. A.; Chamberlain, Rebecca and Wammes, Jeffrey. D.. 2023. Drawing as a versatile cognitive tool. Nature Reviews Psychology, 2(9), pp. 556-568. ISSN 2731-0574

Igdalova, Aleksandra and Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2023. Slow Looking at Still Art: The Effect of Manipulating Audio Context and Image Category on Mood and Engagement During an Online Slow Looking Exercise. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, ISSN 1931-3896

Park, Suhyun; Williams, Louis and Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2022. Global Saccadic Eye Movements Characterise Artists’ Visual Attention While Drawing. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 40(2), pp. 228-244. ISSN 0276-2374

Bignardi, Giacomo; Chamberlain, Rebecca; Kevenaar, Sofieke T; Tamimy, Zenab and Boomsma, Dorret I. 2022. On the etiology of aesthetic chills: a behavioral genetic study. Scientific Reports, 12, 3247. ISSN 2045-2322

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Orgs, Guido; Mayer, Veronika; Chana, Kirren; Berio, Daniel and Leymarie, Frederic Fol. 2022. A dot that went for a walk: People prefer lines drawn with human-like kinematics. British Journal of Psychology, 113(1), pp. 105-130. ISSN 0007-1269

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Mullin, Caitlin; Berio, Daniel; Leymarie, Frederic Fol and Wagemans, Johan. 2022. Aesthetics of graffiti: Comparison to text-based and pictorial artforms. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 40(1), pp. 21-36. ISSN 0276-2374

Chamberlain, Rebecca and Pepperell, Robert. 2021. Slow Looking at Slow Art: the Work of Pierre Bonnard. Leonardo, 54(6), pp. 615-618. ISSN 0024-094X

Drake, Jennifer; Riccio, A; Chamberlain, Rebecca and Kozbelt, Aaron. 2021. Artists have superior local and global processing abilities but show a preference for initially drawing globally. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, ISSN 1931-3896

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Kozbelt, Aaron; Drake, Jennifer and Wagemans, Johan. 2021. Learning to See by Learning to Draw: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Relationship Between Representational Drawing Training and Visuospatial Skill. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 15(1), pp. 76-90. ISSN 1931-3896

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Drake, Jennifer; Kozbelt, Aaron; Hickman, Rachel; Siev, Joseph and Wagemans, Johan. 2019. Artists as experts in visual cognition: An update. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 13(1), pp. 58-73. ISSN 1931-3896

Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2018. Drawing as a Window onto Expertise. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(6), pp. 501-507. ISSN 0963-7214

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Brunswick, Nicola; Siev, Joseph and McManus, I. C.. 2018. Meta-analytic findings reveal lower means but higher variances in visuo-spatial ability in dyslexia. British Journal of Psychology, 109(4), pp. 897-916. ISSN 0007-1269

van der Hallen, Ruth; Chamberlain, Rebecca; De-Wit, Lee and Wagemans, Johan. 2018. Superior disembedding in children with ASD: New tests using abstract, meaningful, and 3D contexts. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(7), pp. 2478-2489. ISSN 0162-3257

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Mullin, Caitlin; Scheerlinck, Bram and Wagemans, Johan. 2018. Putting the Art in Artificial: Aesthetic Responses to Computer-generated Art. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 12(2), pp. 177-192. ISSN 1931-3896

Chamberlain, Rebecca; Swinnen, Lena; Heeren, Sarah and Wagemans, Johan. 2018. Perceptual flexibility is coupled with reduced executive inhibition in students of the visual arts. British Journal of Psychology, 109(2), pp. 244-258. ISSN 0007-1269

Huygelier, Hanne; van der Hallen, Ruth; Wagemans, Johan; De-Wit, Lee and Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2018. The Leuven Embedded Figures Test (L-EFT): measuring perception, intelligence or executive function? PeerJ,

Chamberlain, Rebecca; van der Hallen, Ruth; Huygelier, Hanne; Van de Cruys, Sander and Wagemans, Johan. 2017. Local-global processing bias is not a unitary individual difference in visual processing. Vision Research, 141, pp. 247-257. ISSN 0042-6989

Van de Cruys, Sander; Chamberlain, Rebecca and Wagemans, Johan. 2017. Tuning in to art: A predictive processing account of negative emotion in art (commentary). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40, e377. ISSN 0140-525X

De-Wit, Lee; Huygelier, Hanne; van der Hallen, Ruth; Chamberlain, Rebecca and Wagemans, Johan. 2017. Developing The Leuven Embedded Figures Test (L-EFT): Testing the stimulus features that influence embedding. PeerJ, 5, e2862.

Chamberlain, Rebecca and Wagemans, Johan. 2016. The genesis of errors in drawing. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 65, pp. 195-207. ISSN 0149-7634

Chamberlain, Rebecca and Wagemans, Johan. 2015. Visual arts training is linked to flexible attention to local and global levels of visual stimuli. Acta Psychologica, 161, pp. 185-197. ISSN 0001-6918

Chamberlain, Rebecca; McManus, I. C.; Brunswick, Nicola; Rankin, Qona and Riley, Howard. 2015. Scratching the surface: Practice, personality, approaches to learning and the acquisition of high level representational drawing skill. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(4), pp. 451-462. ISSN 1931-3896

Cappelletti, Marinella; Chamberlain, Rebecca; Freemana, Elliot D.; Kanai, Ryota; Butterworth, Brian; Price, Cathy J. and Rees, Geraint. 2014. Commonalities for Numerical and Continuous Quantity Skills at Temporo-parietal Junction. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(5), pp. 986-999. ISSN 0898-929X

Chamberlain, Rebecca; McManus, I. C.; Brunswick, Nicola; Rankin, Qona; Riley, Howard and Kanai, Ryota. 2014. Drawing on the right side of the brain: a voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing. NeuroImage, 96(1), pp. 167-173. ISSN 1053-8119

Chamberlain, Rebecca; McManus, I. C.; Riley, Howard; Rankin, Qona and Brunswick, Nicola. 2014. Cain’s House Revisited and Revived: Extending Theory and Methodology for Quantifying Drawing Accuracy. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 8(2), pp. 152-167. ISSN 1931-3896

Chamberlain, Rebecca; McManus, I. C.; Riley, Howard; Rankin, Qona and Brunswick, Nicola. 2013. Local processing enhancements in superior observational drawing are due to enhanced perceptual functioning, not weak central coherence. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 66(7), pp. 1448-1466. ISSN 1747-0218

McManus, I. C.; Loo, Phik-Wern; Chamberlain, Rebecca; Riley, Howard and Brunswick, Nicola. 2011. Does shape constancy relate to drawing accuracy? Two failures to replicate. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 29(2), pp. 191-208. ISSN 0276-2374

McManus, I. C.; Chamberlain, Rebecca; Loo, Phik-Wern; Rankin, Qona; Riley, Howard and Brunswick, Nicola. 2010. Art students who cannot draw: Exploring the relations between drawing ability, visual memory, accuracy of copying and dyslexia. Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts, 4(1), pp. 18-30. ISSN 1931-3896

Further profile content

Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups

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

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

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

Articles related to Dr Rebecca Chamberlain