Pigeons can discern 'good' and 'bad' art

TOKYO, July 1 (UPI) -- A Japanese study indicates pigeons can be trained to tell the difference between "good" and "bad" paintings.

Keio University Professor Shigeru Watanabe said his team discovered pigeons use color, texture and pattern cues to judge a paintings" beauty as defined by humans.


In the study, watercolor and pastel paintings by children were classified by an art teacher and 10 other adults as either "good" or "bad." The paintings, the researchers said, were considered "good" when images were clear and discernible, and viewers could see the specific characteristics of subjects in the paintings.

Pigeons were put into a chamber where they could see a computer monitor displaying the children's art.

The pigeons were trained to recognize "good" paintings by being rewarded with food if they pecked at the "good" pictures, the scientists said. Pecking at "bad" pictures was not rewarded.

They were then presented with a mixture of new and old "good" and "bad" paintings and the researchers noted which paintings they pecked at. The scientists said the pigeons consistently pecked at the "good" paintings more often than the "bad" paintings.

"Artistic endeavors have been long thought to be limited to humans," Watanabe said. "But this experiment shows that, with training, pigeons are … able to acquire the ability to judge beauty similar to that of humans."


The study appears online in the journal Animal Cognition.

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