Welcome to the

Perception Laboratory

@ Hobart & William Smith Colleges


Principal Investigator:

Daniel J. Graham

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

Gulick Hall

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Geneva, NY 14456 USA

Email: artstats  at  gmail  d0t  com   -or-   mylastname@hws.edu


ŇThe best thing that we're put here for's to see.Ó  - Robert Frost (from The Star-Splitter)


CV (June 2017) available here


á       Research Summary


This laboratory studies perceptual processing in humans from a variety of perspectives, focusing on natural vision. Much of the work focuses on aspects of visual perception that are instantiated in artwork, and in artists themselves. Artwork forms a useful and interesting class of natural stimuli, one created exclusively for the human eye, and only by humans. Research employs computational and behavioral experimental methods in order to help elucidate the nature of neural processing in the visual system and more generally in mammalian brains.


Research questions include:


o   How does human aesthetic sense develop, and how is it affected by mental disorders such as AlzheimerŐs disease?


o   How do artists judge size, color, and light intensity in the world so that they can represent these quantities on canvas?


o   Do human artists produce representations that are efficiently processed by the visual system, and if so, what can this tell us about neural processing in humans?


o   How do mental illnesses such as schizophrenia affect visual representations in artwork?


o   What visual attributes and statistical properties constitute artistic style, and can style be modeled computationally?


o   What can we learn about cortical processing from network theoretic principles of dynamic routing?



á      Teaching


á       In Fall, I typically teach PSY 100: Introduction to Psychology and PSY 309: Topics in Sensory Perception (Focus on Art and Human Vision). In Spring, I typically teach Sensation and Perception (PSY 299) and Research in Sensory Perception (PSY 310).


á       We are always looking for motivated students to work in the lab! Contact Prof. Graham if you are interested in an RA opportunity, independent study, or summer science.



á      Colorblindness in the Classroom


á       For students with colorblindness, and for the faculty who teach them, I have developed an online resource linked here:


Colorblindness in the Classroom


The resource includes:

o   An introduction to the neuroscience of colorblindness

o   Practical tips for instructors on using visual learning tools in a way that helps students with colorblindness succeed

o   Advice for students with colorblindness



á      Publications (click paper title for pdf)  **indicates HWS student co-author




Graham, D. J., (in press). Building brains that communicate like machines. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.


Pugach, C.** Leder, H. and Graham, D. J. 2017. How stable are human aesthetic preferences across the lifespan?. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11:289. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00289.




Graham, D. J., Schwarz, B., Chatterjee, A. and Leder, H. 2016. Preference for luminance histogram regularities in natural scenes Vision Research, 120, 11-21. Supplemental Data




Pugach, C.,** Daley, E.**, Leder, H. and Graham. D. J. 2014. Aesthetic stability in development. In: Proceedings of the International Association for Empirical Aesthetics Biennial Congress 2014, New York, NY. ISBN: 0-692-29396-5.


Graham, D. J. 2014. Routing in the brain. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 8:44.


Graham, D. J., Pallett, P. M., Meng, M. and Leder, H. 2014. Representation and aesthetics of the human face in portraiture. Art & Perception, 2(1-2), 75-98.




Graham, D. J. 2013. Integrating holism and reductionism in the science of art perception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(2), 145-146.


Graham, D. J., Stockinger, S. and Leder, H. 2013 An island of stability: art images and natural scenes—but not natural faces—show consistent aesthetic response in AlzheimerŐs-related dementia. Frontiers in Psychology 4:107.




Graham, D. J. 2011. Visual Perception: Lightness in a High Dynamic Range World. Current Biology 21(22), R914-R916.


Graham, D. J. and Rockmore, D. N. 2011. The packet switching brain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23 (2), 267-276.


Graham, D. J. and Meng, M. 2011. Artistic representations: clues to efficient coding in human vision. Visual Neuroscience 28, 371-379 [Special Issue on

comparative, ecological and developmental aspects of visual system design and function]


Graham, D. J. and Meng, M. 2011. Altered spatial frequency content in paintings by artists with schizophrenia. i-Perception 2 (1), 1-9.


Graham, D. J., Hughes, J. M., Leder, H. and Rockmore, D. N. 2011. Statistics, vision, and the analysis of artistic style. WIREs Comput. Stat. (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Computational Statistics) 4, 115–123. doi: 10.1002/wics.197.


Hughes, J. M., Graham, D. J., Jacobsen, C. R. and Rockmore, D. N. 2011. Comparing higher-order spatial statistics and perceptual judgments in the stylometric analysis of art. Proceedings of EUSIPCO 2011 (19th European Signal Processing Conference), Barcelona, ESP.




Graham, D. J. and Redies, C. 2010 Statistical regularities in art: Relations with visual coding and perception. Vision Research 50 (16) 1503-1509.


Hughes, J. M., Graham, D. J. and Rockmore, D. N. Quantification of artistic style through sparse coding analysis in the drawings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107, 1279-1283.

MEDIA COVERAGE OF PNAS PAPER: Nature, NPR, BBC, Science News, IEEE Spectrum, Ars Technica, Physics World, NH Union Leader, Valley News, The Dartmouth, Press Release


Graham, D. J., Friedenberg, J. D., Rockmore, D. N. and Field, D. J. 2010. Mapping the similarity space of paintings: image statistics and visual perception. Visual Cognition 18 (4), 559-573.


Graham, D. J., Friedenberg, J. D., McCandless, C. H. and Rockmore, D. N. 2010. Preference for artwork: Similarity, statistics, and selling price. Proc. SPIE: Human Vision and Electronic Imaging 7527, 75271A.


Hughes, J. M., Graham, D. J. and Rockmore, D. N. 2010. Stylometrics of artwork: Uses and limitations. Proc. SPIE: Computer Vision and Image Analysis of Art 7531, 75310C.




Graham, D. J. 2009. Art statistics and visual processing: Insights for Picture Coding. Proceedings of the Picture Coding Symposium 2009, Chicago, IL.


Graham, D. J., Friedenberg, J. D. and Rockmore, D. N. 2009. Efficient visual system processing of spatial and luminance statistics in representational and non-representational art. Proc. SPIE: Human Vision and Electronic Imaging 7240, 72401N.




Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. 2008. Global nonlinear luminance compression in painted art. Proc. SPIE: Computer Image Analysis in the Study of Art 6810, 68100K.


Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. 2008. Variations in intensity statistics for representational and abstract art, and for art from the eastern and western hemispheres. Perception 37, 1341-1352.


Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. 2008. Natural images: coding efficiency. In Encyclopedia of Neuroscience ed. Larry R. Squire. Academic Press, Oxford.



2004 - 2007


Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. 2007. Statistical regularities of art images and natural scenes: Spectra, sparseness and nonlinearities. Spatial Vision 21, 149-164.


Graham, D. J., Chandler, D. M. and Field, D. J. 2006. Can the theory of "whitening" explain the center-surround properties of retinal ganglion cell receptive fields? Vision Research 46, 2901-2913.


Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. 2006. Sparse coding in the neocortex. In Evolution of Nervous Systems ed. Jon H. Kaas and Leah A. Krubitzer. Elsevier, Vol. III, pp. 181-187.


Cuesta-Lopez, S.,  Peyrard, M. and Graham, D. J. 2005. Model for DNA hairpin denaturation. European Physical Journal E-Soft Matter 16, 235-246.



á      Theses


Graham, D. J. 2008. The relationship between efficient coding of natural scenes in the human visual system and statistical regularities in art. Doctoral Thesis, Department of Psychology, Cornell University.


Graham, D. J. 2004. Efficient retinal ganglion cell coding and the statistics of natural scenes. Master's Thesis, Department of Physics, Cornell University.



á      Book Reviews


Graham, D. J. 2012 EvolutionŐs Witness. Perception 41, 755-756.


Graham, D. J. 2012 The Evolution of the Eye from Algae and Jellyfish to Humans. Perception 41, 626-627.


Graham, D. J. 2004. In the Blink of an Eye. American Paleontologist 12, 13-17.


á      Selected Conference Abstracts


Teceno, D.** and Graham, D. J. (2017, May) Aesthetic stability in non-elderly adults with brain injury: A pilot study. Association for Psychological Science, Boston, MA.


Prescott, N.** and Graham, D. J. (2017, March) The visual neuroscience of masks. Eastern Psychological Association, Boston, MA.


Graham, D. J., Schwarz, B., Chatterjee, A., and Leder, H. (2013, May). Preference for higher-order luminance regularities in natural scenes. Vision Sciences Society, Naples, FL.


Graham, D. J. and Meng, M. (2011, May). Lightness perception in artists. Vision Sciences Society 2011, Naples, FL.


Graham, D. J., Friedenberg, J. D. and Rockmore, D. N. (2009, August) Mathematics, Perception, and the Visual Arts: New Perspectives, talk at MathPsych 2009 (Society for Mathematical Psychology).


Graham, D. J., Friedenberg, J. D., Rockmore, D. N. and Field, D. J. (2008, August) Mapping the similarity space of paintings: Is there a role for image statistics? ECVP 2008 Utrecht, NL.


Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. (2008, January) Global nonlinear compression of natural luminances in painted art. SPIE Electronic Imaging Conference on Computer Image Analysis in the Study of Art, San Jose CA.


Cutting, J. E., Graham, D. J. and Field, D. J. (2008, March) From a neuroesthetics to a neuroarthistory. Annual Conference of the College Art Association, Dallas TX.


Graham, D. J., Page, K. B. and Field, D. J. (2006, August) Relating nonlinearities to statistical regularities in paintings. Perception 35 supplement for ECVP.


Graham, D. J. Chandler, D. M. and Field, D. J. (2005, August) How alike are natural scenes and paintings? Characterizing the spatial statistical properties of a set of digitized, grey-scale images of painted art.  Perception 34 supplement for ECVP.


Graham, D. J., Chandler, D. M. and Field, D. J. 2004. Decorrelation and response equalization with center-surround receptive fields. Journal of Vision 4, 276a.



á      Invited Talks


Introduction to Visual Stylometry: A Neuroscientific Perspective, WAIVS (Workflows for Analysis of Images in Visual Stylometry), Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg MA USA, May, 2017.


Face Representation in Portraiture and Masks, Eastern American Society for Aesthetics Annual Meeting, April 2016.


The Packet Switching Brain: A Hypothesis, Redwood Neuroscience Institute Seminar, University of California, Berkeley, Nov 2009.  VIDEO.


The Efficient Artist: Statistical Regularities in Art and Their Relationships with Visual Coding, Oxyopia Lecture Series, University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry, Nov 2009. VIDEO.


Art and Efficient Visual Representation, Colloquium Speaker, Department of Mathematics, Middlebury College, Sept 2009.


Invited Panelist, Special Session on Visual Attention, Artistic Intent and Efficient Coding, Picture Coding Symposium, Chicago, IL, May 2009.


Stylometric analysis of Van Gogh using methods inspired by early visual system neural coding. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Oct 2008. (part of IP4AI)


Statistical Regularities in Paintings: Connections to Visual Coding and Perception, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena, Germany, Sept 2008.


Relationships Between Human Visual Coding and Painted Art, Applied and Computational Mathematics Seminar, Dartmouth College, Feb 2008.


The Illuminated World: Art and the Visual System, Art for Lunch, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, April 2007.



á      Support and Awards


2008-2009: William H. Neukom 1964 Institute for Computational Science


2008-2010: National Science Foundation Small Grant for Exploratory Research DMS-0746667


2007: ProvostŐs Diversity Fellowship, Cornell University


2004-2007: National Institutes of Health Kirschstein-NRSA Traineeship (Individual) EY015393


2002: NSF Locnet Fellowship, Ecole Normale Superieure, Lyon, France


2001-2004: NSF IGERT Program in Nonlinear Dynamics Fellowship, Cornell University



á      Writing for Non-scientists


I was the lead researcher of a book for general audiences about e-mail and communication, Send, by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe (Knopf). See thinkbeforeyousend.com

Now in a revised edition.




á      Links


Noah Graham  (my brother) studies quantum mechanics and teaches physics at my alma mater, Middlebury College.



Updated 31 May 2017