open science

Measuring art:
Methodical development and validation of RizbA, a quantitative rating instrument for formal picture analysis

PhD project at Witten/Herdecke University, Faculty of Health, Department Psychology and Psychotherapy

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Thomas Ostermann, Witten/Herdecke University, Faculty of Health, Department Psychology and Psychotherapy, Chair of research methods and statistics

Alumna of Open Science Fellows Program by Wikimedia Deutschland, Stifterverband, Volkswagenstiftung

an art book on a stool in a studio with  walls and floor, next to it a white canvas

One of art therapy’s basic assumptions is that inner representations are reflected in the pictorial expression. This affects a wide variety of differential psychological and clinical constructs. These relationships have hardly been researched quantitatively since there is a lack of reliable measuring instruments. Psychology has been concerned with the arts for some time as well – when it comes to experimental aesthetics or art psychology. However, pictorial expression as a differential psychological concept received little attention, probably because there is a lack of reliable measuring instruments.

This work closes this gap between art and science. In arts and humanities qualitative methods are mostly used for image analysis. This work breaks with this tradition and links visual science contents with quantitative, psychometric methodology. The rating instrument for two-dimensional visual works (RizbA) is developed for this purpose. It is a 26 items questionnaire, which measures pictorial expression and includes contents of a formal picture analysis, such as representation, color, shape, space, movement and composition.

It was tested in three randomized validation studies in a test-retest design with representative samples of pictures created by amateurs (N = 294) and contemporary art (N = 318). Statistical parameters, factor analyses and fit indices serve as quality criteria. This results in a medium to high capacity of differentiation between pictorial works (partial η2 = .280 to .879) and a high inter-rater reliability (ICC = .525 to .917). The test-retest reliability is r = .86 to .93. Principal component analyses suggest an interpretable eight-factor structure (spatiality, shaping, pictorial elements (drawing vs. painting), representation, color intensity, color mixture, composition, and picture effect).

The three studies suggest that the questionnaire can be generalized so that it can be applied to both amateurs works and contemporary art. As the first reliable measuring instrument, RizbA opens up new perspectives. It creates the methodological basis for an objective measurement of pictorial expression as a differential psychological variable as well as other psychological correlates of art. This promotes new transdisciplinary research approaches in psychology, aesthetics and art science. In the future, testing on non-Eurocentric samples, Confirmatory factor analyzes and machine learning approaches are planned for further validation.

download RizbA

In terms of Open Science the current version of the RizbA questionnaire in German language is freely available for research and documentation. The paper-pencil-version is available via Zenodo. I’m looking forward to your feedback!


In the near future I’m planning a study on creating an English version of RizbA to make it applicable to more researchers and practicioners. If you are a native speaking researcher interested in collaborating, please contact me.


  • Schoch, K. (In press). Psyche, Kreativität und Bildlicher Ausdruck: Ein quantitatives Ratinginstrument zur Formalen Bildanalyse (RizbA) [Mind, creativity and pictorial expression: A quantitative rating instrument for formal picture analysis (RizbA)]. Conference transcript, Psychodynamics of creative work – Arts Therapies in clinical fields of work, Annual conference of the international society for art, creation and therapy (IGKGT), Sigmund Freud private university Berlin, 2018.
  • Schoch, K. (2019). Psychotrauma und transkulturelle Unterschiede in Bildern: Ein quantitatives Ratinginstrument für zweidimensionale bildnerische Arbeiten (RizbA) [Psychotrauma and transcultural differences in pictures: A quantitative rating instrument for two-dimensional pictorial works (RizbA)]. In Krueger, C., Stellbrink-Kesy, B., Widdascheck, C., & Hamberger, C. (Eds.). Kunsttherapie in Migration [Art therapy in migration]. Köln: Richter.
  • Schoch, K., & Schulze-Stampa, C. (Eds.) (2019). In/ter/ven/tion: in mit durch Kunst [In/ter/ven/tion: in with through art]. Publication series art + research, No. 5. Ottersberg: HKS – University of Applied sciences and arts in Ottersberg.
  • Schoch, K. (2018). Jenseits von gut und schön: Entwicklung eines quantitativen Ratinginstruments für zweidimensionale bildnerische Arbeiten (RizbA) [Beyond good and beautiful: Development of a quantitative rating instrument for two-dimensional pictorial works (RizbA)]. Musik-, Tanz- und Kunsttherapie: Zeitschrift für Künstlerische Therapien im Bildungs-, Sozial- und Gesundheitswesen, 28(2), 131-138.
  • Schoch, K., Gruber, H., & Ostermann, T. (2017). Measuring art: Methodical development of a quantitative rating instrument measuring pictorial expression (RizbA). The Arts in Psychotherapy, 55, 73-79.
  • Schoch, K. (2014, February 25). Ratinginstrument für zweidimensionale bildnerische Arbeiten: Methodische Arbeit zur Entwicklung eines psychologischen Tests zur Erfassung von bildnerischem Ausdruck [Rating instrument for two-dimensional pictorial works: Methodical development of a psychological test measuring pictorial expression]. University of Mannheim. Zenodo.

futher studies on RizbA

  • Epstein, Clara. (2019, March 22). Bildlicher Ausdruck von Depression: Erprobung des Ratinginstruments RizbA an Bildstichproben aus dem klinischen Kunsttherapiesetting [Pictorial expression of depression: Testing the ratinginstrument RizbA on image samples from a clinical art therapy setting]. Zenodo.
  • Janßen, B. (2018, August 13). Erprobung des Ratinginstruments für zweidimensionale bildnerische Arbeiten (RizbA): Pilotstudie zur Untersuchung des bildlichen Ausdrucks in gemalten Bildern von Menschen mit chronischer Schmerzsymptomatik [Testing the rating instrument for two-dimensional pictorial works (RizbA): Pilot study for investigating pictorial expression in pictures painted by people with chronic pain symptoms]. Hochschule für Künste im Sozialen, Otterberg. Zenodo.

Articles (preprint or manuscript), posters and other materials regarding RizbA are freely available at Zenodo.


Open Science Radio Episode 173 (German)
Art und therapy, art science and psychology
27th June 2019


Kerstin Schoch
Art therapist, Psychologist
Institute for Art Therapy and Research
HKS – University of applied sciences and arts in Ottersberg
Am Wiestebruch 68, 28870 Ottersberg
My research on Wikiversity and Twitter.

Current information about my research can be found at my Blog. If you want to stay up to date, please enroll for my Newsletter.