Ellen Winner

Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, Boston College
Senior Research Associate, Harvard Project Zero
Director, Arts and Mind Lab


Arts and Mind Lab

Welcome to the Arts and Mind Lab, where we study the psychological components of involvement in the arts as well as other aspects of conceptual development. We include children and adults in our research. We are currently supported by funds from the National Science Foundation, Faber-Castell, as well as by internal grants from Boston College.

Doctoral Students

Jennifer Drake (Lab Manager)

I have two lines of research in the arts. One area is the study of perceptual abilities underlying realistic drawing talent in autistic and non-autistic children and adults. This is the focus of my dissertation research.


Winner, E., & Drake, J. E. (in press). The rage to master: The decisive role of talent in the visual arts. In S.B.Kaufmann (Ed.), Innate talent vs. deliberate practice: A critical examination and future research direction.

Drake, J. E., & Winner, E. (in press). Superior Visual Analysis and Imagery in an Autistic Child With Drawing Talent. Imagination, Cognition & Personality.

Drake, J. E., & Winner, E. (in press). Children gifted in drawing: Underlying perceptual strengths. In Understanding our Gifted.

Drake, J. E., Redash, A., Coleman, K., Haimson, J., & Winner, E. (2010). ‘Autistic’ Local Processing Bias Also Found in Children Gifted in Realistic Drawing. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 762-773.

Drake, J. E., & Winner, E. (2009). Precocious Realists: Perceptual and Cognitive Characteristics Associated with Drawing Talent in Non-Autistic Children. Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society B
, 364, 1449-1458.

My second area is the study of the emotional and cognitive benefits of art making for both children and adults. I am examining whether making art and/or writing improves emotion regulation, empathy, and cognitive performance, and whether making art by hand vs. digitally affects affective response. This research is supported in part by the Faber-Castell company.


Drake, J. E., Coleman, K., & Winner, E. (in press). Short-Term Mood Repair Through Art: Effects of Medium and Strategy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.

Angelina Hawley Dolan

I am studying aesthetic reasoning in children and adults, examining the cognitive and affective responses involved in viewing and analyzing visual art. I am investigating how we distinguish works of professional abstract expressionists from superficially similar works by children, chimps, monkeys, and elephants, as well as children’s conceptions of what counts as art, and their understanding of the difference between a forgery and an original work of art in terms of aesthetic value.


Evaluating skill in abstract art. In preparation.

My other interests lie in the relationship between the evaluative processes within moral cognition and art.


Knutson, K.M., Krueger F., Koenigs, M., Hawley, A., Escobedo, J.R., Vasudeva, V., Adolphs, R., & Grafman, J. Behavioral Norms for Condensed Moral Vignettes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.