Study turns pigeons into ‘art critics’
You can have an eye for art, or, you can have a bird’s eye view of
But both at the same time?
A Japanese researcher is reporting that he has trained pigeons to
tell apart ‘good’ and ‘bad’ children’s paintings, in the process making
judgments that largely agree with those of human viewers.
Can animals make artistic judgments? A researcher claims to have
trained pigeons to tell apart ‘good’ and ‘bad’ children’s paintings
Whether the birds are weighing the works based on artistic merit, or on
some other characteristic or cue, may not be fully ascertainable.
“But somehow, the avians could distinguish between pictures
previously rated as good or bad by adults, according to psychologist
Shigeru Watanabe of Keio University in Tokyo.
Perhaps pigeons can “learn the concept of ‘beauty’ as defined by
humans,” wrote Watanabe in the study, published in the June 16 issue of
the research journal Animal Cognition.
Watanabe first asked a group of adults to judge several children’s
paintings. Sophisticated evaluations weren’t requested: the viewers were
simply asked to rate the works as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ - that is, beautiful
Later, pigeons were trained, through dispensation of treats, to peck
at ‘good’ paintings.
Pecking at ‘bad’ ones would net them no reward.
After some training, pigeons were shown new pictures “of both ‘good’
and ‘bad’ children’s paintings to test whether they had successfully
learned to discriminate” between the two, Watanabe wrote. They had, he
Pigeons continued to perform relatively well at the task when
presented with reduced size reproductions, he added.
They got worse at it when the pictures were converted into black and
white reproductions or reproduced with a mosaic effect applied.
“The results suggest that the pigeons used both colour and pattern
cues for the discrimination and show that nonhuman animals, such as
pigeons, can be trained to discriminate abstract visual stimuli,” he
- World Science