Pigeons could be art critics yet, according to a new study1 which shows that like humans, pigeons can be trained to tell the difference between 'good' and 'bad' paintings. According to Professor Shigeru Watanabe from Keio University in Japan, pigeons use both color and pattern cues to judge the paintings' beauty as defined by humans, as well as their texture. Professor Watanabe's work has just been published online in Springer's journal, Animal Cognition.
The concept of beauty is based on two properties. Firstly, humans derive pleasure from viewing aesthetically pleasing art and experience negative emotions from aesthetically unappealing art. Secondly, we can tell the difference between 'good' or beautiful paintings and 'bad' or ugly paintings and therefore form a concept of what is aesthetically pleasing. Professor Watanabe's research looks at pigeons' ability to distinguish between paintings based on their beauty; in other words, can they form a concept of beauty similar to that of humans, and if so, how do they do it?
A mixture of watercolor and pastel paintings by children from a school in Tokyo were classified by the school's art teacher and 10 other adults as either 'good' or 'bad'. Paintings were considered 'good' when the images were clear and discernable, and viewers could see the specific characteristics of the subjects in the paintings. Pigeons from the Japanese Society for Racing Pigeons were placed in a chamber where they could see a computer monitor displaying the children's art.
In the first series of experiments, four pigeons were trained to recognize 'good' paintings by being rewarded with food if they pecked at the 'good' pictures. 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. Pigeons consistently pecked at the 'good' paintings more often than at the 'bad' paint
|Contact: Ana Granadillo Markl|