Justin Ostrofsky

My major research interest is understanding the psychological processes associated with the production of visual art (particularly, drawing).

Drawing is a universal behavior engaged in by individuals of all ages from all around world. The production of high-quality drawings is an extremely difficult behavior for most children and adults, and typically requires extensive formal training and practice before expert-level skill is acquired. My research investigates the psychological processes that are associated with the development of drawing skill. I focus on understanding the processes relating to two general types of drawings: (1) observation-based drawings where an individual attempts to create a recognizable depiction of a model that is directly perceived, and (2) memory-based drawings where an individual attempts to create a recognizable depiction of an object based on their imagination without the guide of an external model.

Examples of more specific empirical questions my research is focused on includes:

How does perceptual encoding of the model impact the appearance and accuracy of an observation-based drawing? Are drawing errors caused by misperception of the model being reproduced? Do expert artists highly skilled in observation-based drawing have the ability to more accurately perceive visual stimuli compared to less skilled non-artists?

How does visual attention and decision-making processes impact the appearance and accuracy of observation-based drawings? Is drawing skill impacted by what information in the model individuals decide to selectively attend to? Do expert artists highly skilled in observation-based drawing visually attend to the models being reproduced in different ways than less skilled non-artists? If so, what visual information do skilled artists attend to that contributes to high-quality drawings that less skilled non-artists ignore?

How does prior knowledge impact the appearance and accuracy of observation-based drawings? In what ways does prior knowledge impair the ability to accurately draw an object from observation? In what ways does prior knowledge facilitate the ability to produce an accurate observation-based drawing? Do highly skilled artists draw better than non-artists because they are less influenced by prior knowledge pertaining to the object being drawn, or because they have more sophisticated and accurate prior knowledge pertaining to the object being drawn?

How do long-term memories that represent the graphic properties of common objects impact observation-based drawing performance? Are observation-based drawings partially guided by the activation and processing of information stored in long-term memory? Are errors in observation-based drawings caused by biases inherent in long-term memories?

How does the appearance of drawings develop from early-childhood into late-childhood and adulthood? What drawing biases exist in early-childhood, and to what degree do they persist as individuals age into late-childhood and adulthood? To what degree are early-child drawing biases universally observed in children living all across the world? To what degree are early-child drawing biases specific to the child's cultural and geographic environments?

I study the questions above by employing quantitative methods derived from modern psychological research. Specific methodological strategies include:

Experimental Methods

Assessing how observation-based drawing accuracy is affected by controlled manipulations of the models being reproduced


Quasi-Experimental Methods

Comparing performance on drawing tasks and non-drawing perceptual tasks between subjects sampled from different populations (e.g. artists vs. non-artists; children of different age groups)


Correlational Methods

Assessing the co-varying relationship between observation-based drawing performance and performance in various non-drawing perceptual, attentional and decision-making tasks

Ostrofsky, J., Kozbelt, A., & Seidel, A. (2012). Perceptual constancies and visual selection as predictors of realistic drawing skill. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5, 124-136. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Cohen, D.J. & Kozbelt, A. (2014). Objective versus subjective measures of face-drawing accuracy and their relations with perceptual constancies. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 8, 486 – 497. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Kozbelt. A. & Cohen, D.J. (2015). Observational Drawing Biases Are Predicted By Biases in Perception: Empirical Support of the Misperception Hypothesis of Drawing Accuracy with Respect to Two Angle Illusions. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68, 1007 - 1025. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J. (2015). Developmental and Geographic Analyses of Spatial Biases in Face Drawings Produced by Children. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 33, 3 - 17. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J. (2015). Do graphic long-term memories influence the production of observational drawings? The relationship between memory- and observation-based face drawings. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 9, 217 - 227. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Kozbelt, A., Cohen, D.J., Conklin, L. & Thomson, K. (2016). Face Inversion Impairs the Ability to Draw Long-Range, but not Short-Range, Spatial Relationships between Features. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 34, 221-233. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Kozbelt, A., Tumminia, M. & Cipriano, M. (2016). Why Do Non-Artists Draw the Eyes Too Far Up the Head? How Vertical Eye-Drawing Errors Relate to Schematic Knowledge, Pseudoneglect and Context-based Perceptual Biases. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 10, 332 - 343. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Nehl, H. & Mannion, K. (2017). The Effect of Object Interpretation on the Appearance of Drawings of Ambiguous Figures. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 11, 99-108. (pdf)

Kozbelt, A. & Ostrofsky, J. (2018). Expertise in Drawing. In K.A. Ericsson, R.R. Hoffman, A. Kozbelt & A.M. Williams (Eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, 2nd Edition (pp 576 - 596). Cambridge University Press. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Pletcher, R. & Smith, J. (2020). The Effects of Disrupting Holistic Processing on the Ability to Draw a Face. Art & Perception, 8, 68 - 88. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J. (2020). Observational Drawing Research Methods. In M. Nadal & O. Vartanian (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Aesthetics. Oxford University Press. Advance online publication. (pdf)

Ostrofsky, J., Casario, K., Canfield, R. & Pletcher, R. (2021). Temporal- and Orientation-Based Properties of the Relationship Between Imagination- and Observation-Based Face Drawings. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, Advanced Online Publication. (pdf)

Students must have passed PSYC 2241 Statistical Methods and must have passed or are currently taking PSYC 3242 Experimental Psychology. Preference for students who earned an A in these courses.

Preference for students who have taken Statistical Methods or Experimental Psychology with me. This is not required, but, students who have not taken one of these courses with me must provide a reference with the professor who taught them in one of these two courses.

Preference for students who aim to apply to a science-based graduate program (at the Masters- or Doctoral-level) after graduating from Stockton University

By working with me on research, students will acquire experience in:

  • developing methods to evaluate empirical research hypotheses
  • collecting behavioral data following a standardized protocol
  • statistically analyzing behavioral data using SPSS and Excel
  • disseminating research findings at professional research conferences via a poster or spoken presentation
  • potentially collaborating with me in writing a manuscript to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed research journal

Although this will vary by semester, my research assistants are generally obligated to:

  • Complete the CITI online training course pertaining to ethical standards relating to conducting research with human subjects
  • Read multiple research articles that provide background relating to the research study that will be conducted
  • Attend 2-3 meetings at the beginning of the semester to discuss the project and to be trained on how to collect data
  • Collect behavioral data in the lab for about 40-50 hours over the course of the semester (~6-8 hours per week) following a regular weekly schedule
  • Attend 1-2 meetings toward the end of the semester to statistically analyze data
  • Work on preparing a presentation to be given at a professional research conference
  • (Optional) Collaborate with me in writing a manuscript to be submitted to a peer-reviewed research journal

At the latest, email me (Justin.Ostrofsky@stockton.edu) during the early portion of the break (winter or summer) before the semester you wish to work on research. My research projects begin during the first one-to-two weeks of a semester, and thus, I do not accept students to work with me on research during the course of a Fall or Spring semester for that semester.

In your email, express your interest in working on research, identify whether you have taken Statistical Methods and Experimental Psychology (and the grade you earned in each course), and your graduate school/career plans after graduating from Stockton University. If you did not take either Statistical Methods or Experimental Psychology with me, identify the professor(s) who taught you in these courses.

I am open to supervising students’ projects for distinction. If you have interest in conducting a Project for Distinction, email me expressing your interest in this and generally describing the topic you want to study. We will set up a meeting to discuss your ideas and whether I am a good fit for supervising this project (depending on the topic of the project you wish to conduct). If I judge that I am not well-suited to supervise your project, we can discuss other professors who may be better suited to do so.