Pigeons Can Tell the Difference Between Good and Bad Art

Photo by Rajiv Bajaj on Unsplash

According to recent findings, pigeons are actually able to tell the difference between good and bad art. How can they even do this? Isn’t the “quality” of art a subjective thing after all?

Professor Shigeru Watanabe from Keio University studied what happens when pigeons face artwork for years. In his 1995 study, he showed pigeons paintings by Monet and Picasso. They were trained to peck whenever they saw these paintings, and it turned out the birds are able to tell the difference between these artists. Not only that, but they were also able to generalize the difference in style and apply it to other artists.

But what about good and bad art?

Professor Watanabe, along with students and professors from his university, determined if specific artworks were “good” or “bad” for the purpose of this research. Once the pigeons learned which pieces were good and which were bad, they had no problems categorizing new pieces they had never seen before.