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 completed my PhD at NYU in New York City. As of now, I still call the self-proclaimed center of the world my home.

The main focus of my research is aesthetic value, i.e., beauty. My PhD thesis is centered around understanding the experience of beauty. I am trying to understand this unique experience from a psychological, experimental and quantitative perspective. The current challenge is to integrate our understanding of beauty with that of other values like money or food.

I am a researcher, a woman, a bisexual, a runner and marathoner with crazy thoughts about ultra-marathons, an unapologetic fan of free weekends, glitter, and silly comics involving cats more often than not (some of which originate from the hand of yours truly).

Research

My approach to studying beauty is quantitative and computational. During my PhD, I started to develop a mathematical working model of the processes underlying an experience of beauty. As a postdoc, I want to use this new perspective on beauty to finally integrate an understanding of aesthetic value into how we think about human judgment and decision making

I also aim to make my approach interdisciplinary by collaborating with philosophers like Joerg Fingerhut and Angelica Nuzzo.

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 tweet as aabrielma.

What’s new

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.

What is beauty? Yes, we are going for the elephant question in the room! Most of the big philosophers have tried to define beauty. With the help of the philosopher Angelica Nuzzo, we now compare these definitions to how people experience beauty today and to their beliefs about beauty. So far, we collected data frmom >500 people in the US, UK, and India. Looks like Kant gets a bit of confirmation again…

Is beauty special? Or is it just intense pleasure? Many people strongly sense that there is more to beauty than just pleasure - but to date, there is no compelling evidence that this is the case. We will take advantage of a classic psychophysics paradigm - adaptation - to settle this long-standing debate.

Publications

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

Tracking two pleasures. Brielmann, A.A., & Pelli, D.G. (2019). Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Intense beauty requires intense pleasure. Brielmann, A.A., & Pelli, D.G. (2019). Frontiers in Psychology.

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.