Navigation Links
A bird's eye view of art

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' paintings. When the paintings' sizes were reduced, the birds discriminated just as well between the two types of paintings. However, when they were presented with grayscale paintings, they were no longer able to distinguish between the paintings, indicating that they use color cues for discrimination. When the paintings were processed into mosaics, the pigeons also found it difficult to distinguish between the paintings, showing that they also use pattern cues to make their beauty judgments. Hiding part of the picture did not affect the pigeons' ability to tell the difference between paintings.

In the second series of experiments, Professor Watanabe looked at whether pigeons could discriminate between watercolor and pastel paintings. Eight new pigeons were trained to recognize the texture of paintings four were trained to peck at watercolor paintings and four were trained to peck at pastel paintings. As in the previous experiment, when presented with a mixture of new and old paintings, pigeons used both color and shape cues to accurately discriminate between textures.

Taken together, these experiments suggest that humans and pigeons use similar visual cues to identify 'good' paintings and painting texture. Although there is a considerable difference in humans' and pigeons' brain architectures, they can function in similar ways to make complex visual discriminations.

Professor Watanabe concludes: "Artistic endeavors have been long thought to be limited to humans, but this experiment shows that, with training, pigeons are capable of distinguishing between 'good' and 'bad' paintings. This research does not deal with advanced artistic judgments, but it shows that pigeons are able to acquire the ability to judge beauty similar to that of humans."


Contact: Ana Granadillo Markl

Related biology news :

1. Toxic molecule may help birds see north and south
2. Conservationists seek to identify prime stopover sites for migrating birds
3. CCNY, CSHL biologists find birdsong of isolates reverts to norm over several generations
4. Its for the birds
5. Female birds jam their mates flirtatious songs
6. Climate change affecting Europes birds now, say researchers
7. Birds in Flint Hills of Kansas, Oklahoma face population decline despite large habitat
8. Shade coffee benefits more than birds
9. The birds of Spain, in a digital ornithological encyclopedia
10. Practice as well as sleep may help birds learn new songs
11. Genetic evidence for avian influenza movement from Asia to North America via wild birds
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some 350 ... is dominated by a few companies, according to Kalorama ... own 51% of the market share of the 6.1 ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s . ... "The market is still controlled by one company and ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today that Mr. ... Directors. --> --> ... the partnership at TPG Capital, one of the largest ... Billion in revenue.  He founded and led TPG,s Operating ... companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In his first role, ...
(Date:11/12/2015)...   Growing need for low-cost, easy to ... paving the way for use of biochemical sensors ... in clinical, agricultural, environmental, food and defense applications. ... medical applications, however, their adoption is increasing in ... emphasis on improving product quality and growing need ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... Nov. 25, 2015  Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... President and CEO of Neurocrine Biosciences, will be presenting ... New York . ... website approximately 5 minutes prior to the presentation to ... the presentation will be available on the website approximately ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... uBiome, were featured on AngelList early in their initial angel funding process. Now, ... syndicate for individuals looking to make early stage investments in the microbiome space. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /CNW/ - iCo Therapeutics ("iCo" or "the Company") ... for the quarter ended September 30, 2015. Amounts, ... and presented under International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS"). ... said Andrew Rae , President & CEO ... not only value enriching for this clinical program, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... India , November 24, 2015 ... a new market research report "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market by ... Application (PCR, Gene Synthesis, Diagnostic, DNA, RNAi), End-User (Research, ... 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to ... Million in 2015, at a CAGR of 10.1% during ...
Breaking Biology Technology: