The Science of Beauty

Professional homepage for Aenne A. Brielmann - info, projects, and publications

The Journey

I was born in Germany, raised in Brussels, returned to Germany to study psychology at the University of Konstanz and currently live in the international chaos of New York City.

My joint interest in science, the beautiful, and the arts have provided me with the somewhat exotic PhD topic of beauty. I am trying to understand this unique experience from a psychological, experimental and quantitative perspective.

When this humble professional goal does not tie me to my laptop, I let my thoughts wander on long runs through Brooklyn and Manhattan. And when my feet are tired from that, or from dancing, I try to pull out my sketchbook in memory of past desires to attend art school.


My approach to studying beauty is quantitative and computational. The main goal of my PhD is to develop a mathematical working model of the processes underlying an experience of beauty.

I also aim to make my approach interdisciplinary by collaborating with philosophers at the Einstein Group in Berlin.

I’m enthusiastic about taking the ‘hard’ science of aesthetics to the public!

Most recently, I have been writing for the German magazine Gehirn und Geist and interviewed with the SASS podcast.

I try to keep tweeting as aabrielma.

What’s new

Tracking 2 pleasures: Can people keep track of more than one pleasure in parallel? A classic psychophysics experiment tests people’s ability to report one of several image’s pleasure as well as their combined pleasures. The project is already on GitHub and was pre-registered on OSF. We are revising the paper to be published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Intense beauty requires intense pleasure (at least on average): If beauty is a kind of pleasure, the inability to experience pleasure will prevent beauty experiences. We collected beauty ratings for the 900 OASIS images and anhedonia scores from more than 750 mTurk workers. The beauty ratings are available on GitHub, and the paper is currently under review at Frontiers in Psychology.

How much would you pay for beauty?: Can we translate aesthetic pleasure to monetary value? Is there a common value currency across domains? We use an auction task to assess whether people use a consistent value currency for aesthetic, food, and monetary rewards.


Google Scholar has conveniently listed all my publications, including theses.

You can access all full texts and most conference posters via Research Gate.

Current Projects

Aesthetics. Brielmann, A.A., & Pelli, D.G. (2018). Current Biology. Review

Dynamics of aesthetic experience are reflected in the default-mode network. Belfi, A.M., Vessel, E.A., Brielmann, A.A., Isik, A. I., Chatterjee, A., Leder, H., Pelli, D.G. & Starr, G.G. (2019). NeuroImage.

Beauty at a glance: The feeling of beauty and the amplitude of pleasure are independent of stimulus duration. Brielmann, A. A., Vale, L.N., & Pelli, D.G. (2017). Journal of Vision.

Beauty requires thought. Brielmann, A. A., & Pelli, D.G. (2017). Current Biology. Selected media coverage: Daily Mail, The Smithsonian, Quartz, Die Zeit (German)

Past Projects

Stolarova, M., Brielmann, A.A., Wolf, C., Rinker, T., Baayen, H. (2016). Early Vocabulary in Relation to Gender, Bilingualism, Type, and Duration of Childcare. Advances in Cognitive Psychology.

Brielmann, A. A., Gaetano, J., Stolarova, M. (2015). Man, You Might Look Like a Woman—If a Child Is Next to You. Advances in Cognitive Psychology.

Brielmann, A. A., Spering, M. (2015). Bribing the eye: expected reward modulates smooth pursuit eye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Psychophysics.

Brielmann, A. A., Stolarova, M. (2015). Does it matter how you ask? Self-reported emotions to depictions of need-of-help and social context. BMC Psychology.

Brielmann, A. A., Buelthoff, I., Armann, R. (2014). Looking at faces from different angles: Europeans fixate different features in Asian and Caucasian faces. Vision Research.

Stolarova, M., Wolf, C., Rinker, T., Brielmann, A.A. (2014). How to assess and compare inter-rater reliability, agreement and correlation of ratings: an exemplary analysis of mother-father and parent-teacher expressive vocabulary rating pairs. Frontiers in Psychology – Quantitative Psychology and Measurement.

Stolarova, M., & Brielmann, A. A. (2014). Does anyone need help? Age and gender effects on children’s ability to recognize need-of-help. Frontiers in psychology – Developmental Psychology, 5.

Brielmann, A. A., & Stolarova, M. (2014). A New Standardized Stimulus Set for Studying Need-of-Help Recognition (NeoHelp). PloS one, 9(1), e84373.