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[Press Release] Java Sparrows Prefer Cubism to Impressionism

  Professor Shigeru Watanabe of Keio University's "Centre for Advanced Research on Logic and Sensibility" Global COE Program and doctoral student Yuko Ikkatai have identified evidence that Java sparrows have preferences when it comes to paintings. Previously, Professor Watanabe's research has shown that pigeons can be trained to discriminate between painting styles, such as between Monet and Picasso, and even to discriminate between skillful and unskillful paintings, using children's paintings to represent the latter. However, because these results relied on training to produce the discrimination displayed, it was unknown whether the animals themselves preferred one type of painting over another.
  The current study made use of a long birdcage designed to resemble a hallway in an art gallery, and monitor screens were set at three locations along the length of the cage where they would be visible to the birds. The monitor screens displayed paintings, and the painting displayed would change every seven seconds. On two of the three monitors, Japanese-style, impressionist and cubist (as represented by the works of Picasso) (see note), paintings were displayed in the birds' line of sight; on the remaining monitor screen was displayed an achromatic pattern. When the researchers then observed the birds to see which type of painting they would remain perched in front of longer, they found that five of the seven birds remained perched in front of the cubist paintings longer than they perched in front of the impressionist paintings. Three of the seven birds preferred Japanese-style to cubist paintings, but two preferred cubist to Japanese-style paintings. Between Japanese-style paintings and impressionist paintings (said to be influenced by Japanese-style painting), six of the seven birds showed no clear preference for either. This research represents the first report of birds discriminating between and showing preference for actual paintings.

  The results of this study can be found in the electronic edition of the journal "Animal Cognition" and will be reported at the symposium to be held January 13-14, 2011 in Paris.

*For further information, please check the Press Release announced by Keio University

Java Sparrows Prefer Cubism to Impressionism - First evidence that animals other than humans have preferences when it comes to paintings -