Jay Friedenberg

Professor, Psychology

My academic interests broadly speaking are in the areas of visual perception, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. My coauthor Gordon Silverman and I have published the world’s best-selling undergraduate textbook in cognitive science. It sells over a thousand copies in the U.S. and around the world annually and work is underway on a fourth edition. I have also written books on artificial intelligence and on topics in dynamical systems and complexity theory.


  • PHD, University of Virginia
  • MA, University of Virginia
  • BA, Boston University

Courses Taught

PSYC 203      General Psychology
PSYC 340      Cognition and Learning
PSYC 332      Artificial Psychology
PSYC 367      Sensation and Perception
PSYC 435      Physiological Psychology

  • Research

    My main research focus is in the area of empirical aesthetics, the scientific study of art and beauty. Our lab is actively investigating the properties that affect the judged beauty of simple shapes such as polygons and texture patterns. We have found that factors like complexity, orientation, and symmetry influence the perceived beauty of these stimuli. Some of my research is the result of a collaboration with my colleague Bruce Liby in the physics department. He and I have published a number of papers on how people estimate the center of objects and are now starting to investigate the perception of fractal patterns. I have also coauthored with Marco Bertamini at the University of Liverpool.

  • Publications and Scholarly Activities

    Selected Books:

    • Friedenberg, J. (2016). Humanity’s future: How technology will change us. Humanity+ Press.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Silverman, G. (2016). Cognitive science. An introduction to the study of mind. 3rd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    • Friedenberg, J. (2013). Visual attention and consciousness. New York: Psychology Press.
    • Friedenberg, J. (2009)  Dynamical psychology.  Complexity, self-organization and mind.  Emergent Publishing.
    • Friedenberg, J. (2008). Artificial psychology:  The quest for what it means to be human. New York: Psychology Press.

    Selected Journal Articles:

    • Friedenberg, J. (2018). Geometric regularity, symmetry and the perceived beauty of simple shapes. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 36(1), 71-89.
    • Friedenberg, J. (2017). Perceived beauty of elongated symmetric shapes: Is more better? Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Liby, B. (2016). Perceived beauty of random texture patterns: A preference for complexity. Acta Psychologica, 168, 41-49.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Bertamini, M. (2015). Aesthetic preference for polygon shape. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 33(2), 144-160.
    • Friedenberg, J. Keating, T. & Liby, B. (2012). Judging the center of human figures: Evidence for dynamic perception. International Journal of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 1(4), 30-38.
    • Friedenberg, J. (2012). Aesthetic judgment of triangular shape: Compactness and not the golden ratio determines perceived attractiveness. i-Perception, 3, 163-176.
    • Graham, D. J., Friedenberg, J., Rockmore, D. N., & Field, D. J. (2010). Mapping the similarity space of paintings: Image statistics and visual perception. Visual Cognition, 18 (4), 559-573.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Limratana, W. (2008). Hierarchical numerosity estimation, Psychological Research, 69 (3), 211-220.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Liby, B. (2002).  Perception of two-body center of mass.  Perception & Psychophysics.  64(4), 531-539.
    • Bertamini, M., Friedenberg J. & Argyule L. (2002). No within-object advantage for detection of rotation.  Acta Psychologica. 111, 59-81.
    • Friedenberg, J., & Bertamini, M. (2000). Contour symmetry detection: The influence of axis orientation and number of objects. Acta Psychologica. 105, 107-118.
    • Bertamini, M., Friedenberg, J., & Kubovy, M. (1997). Detection of symmetry and perceptual organization: The way a lock-and-key process works. Acta Psychologica. 95 (2), 119-140.

     Selected Conference Presentations:

    • Friedenberg, J., Esposito, J. & Christian, C. (2018). Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder: Individual Differences in the Perception of Randomized Pattern. Hunter College Psychology Convention. New York City, New York. April 29, 2018.
    • Friedenberg, J. Armen, C. & Spiridigliozzi, G. (2018). Individual Differences in the Perception of Randomized Line Patterns. Hunter College Psychology Convention. New York City, New York. April 29, 2018.
    • Friedenberg, J. (2016). Elongation and Perceived Beauty of Simple Shape. Paper presented at the XXIV Conference of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. Vienna, Austria. August 29 - September 1, 2016.
    • Friedenberg, J., Inzinna, G. & te Riele, M. Perceived beauty of elongated shape: Is there a limit to contour complexity?Paper presented at the 87thAnnual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association. New York City, New York. March 3-5, 2016.
    • Friedenberg, J., Bailey, A., Didomizio, K., Mulgrew, C., & Huvane, K. Perceived beauty of elongated shapes. Paper presented at the 86thannual meeting of The Eastern Psychological Association. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. March 4-7, 2015.
    • Friedenberg, J., Tomczyk, J. & D’Aversa, G. Contour variation and perceived beauty of polygon shape. Paper presented at the Twenty-third Biennial Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. New York City, New York. August 22-24, 2014.
    • Friedenberg, J., Umile, E. & Bailey, A. Perceived beauty of random density patterns. Paper presented at the Twenty-third Biennial Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. New York City, New York. August 22-24, 2014.
    • Friedenberg, J., Wasilewski, A. & Donahue, E. Aesthetic judgment of texture patterns: Beauty is in the perceived density of the beholder. Paper presented at the 13th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society. Naples, Florida. May 10-15, 2013.
    • Friedenberg, J., Rotondo, E. & Rypl, C. Contour variance and the perceived attractiveness of polygonal shape. Paper presented at 84th annual meeting of The Eastern Psychological Association. New York City, New York. March 1-4, 2013.
    • Friedenberg, J., Spooner, T., Rivera, E., Wasilewski, A. & McBride, N. Aesthetic judgment of geometric shape. The role of compactness. Paper presented at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society. Seattle, Washington. November 3-6, 2011.
    • Friedenberg, J. McBride, N., Spooner, T. & Rivera, E. Aesthetic judgements of geometric shape. Paper presented at the 82nd annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association. Cambridge, Massachusetts. March 10-13, 2011.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Keating, T. Perceiving the center of human figures. Paper presented at the Vision Sciences Society Meeting. Naples, Florida. May 7-10, 2010.
    • Friedenberg, J. & Liby, B. Estimating the center of multi-body displays. Talk presented at the 49th annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society. Chicago, Illinois. November 13-16, 2008.
    • Graham, D. & Friedenberg, J. Mapping the Similarity Space of Paintings: Is There a Role for Image Statistics? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the European Conference on Visual Perception. Utrecht, the Netherlands. August 24 - 28, 2008.
  • Professional Experience and Memberships


    • The International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, 2011 - present.
    • New York Academy of Sciences, 2002 - 2004.
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000 - 2004.
    • Sigma Xi, The National Scientific Research Society. 1999 - present.
    • The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 1996 - present.
    • The Psychonomic Society. Associate Member, 1996 - present.
    • The Eastern Psychological Association, 1995 - present.
    • Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, 1988 - present.
    • Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology, 1987 - present.
    • Vision Sciences Society, 1999 – present.
  • Other


    • Landscape art
    • Graphic design
    • Haiku
    • Aphorisms