Watanabe et al 1995 Pigeons discrimination of paintings by Monet and Picasso. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 1995, Vol.63, No.2, Pp.165-174

  • Pigeons successfully learned to discriminate color slides of paintings by Monet and Picasso.

  • Following this training, they discriminated novel paintings by Monet and Picasso that had never been presented during the discrimination training.

  • Furthermore, they showed generalization from Monet’s to Cezanne’s and Renoir’s paintings or from Picasso’s to Braque’s and Matisse’s paintings.

  • These results suggest that pigeons’ behavior can he controlled by complex visual stimuli in ways that suggest categorization.

  • Upside- down images of Monet’s paintings disrupted the discrimination, whereas inverted images of Picasso’s did not.

  • This result may indicate that the pigeons’ behavior was controlled by objects depicted in impressionists’ paintings but was not controlled by objects in cubists’ paintings.
























[not in handout, see intranet]
Expt 1 8 naive pigeons and 2 chambers, one with video, one with slides

They used 10 Monet’s and 10 Picasso’s as training, and selected “typical” pictures

During training, for each session 20 paintings were presented once each in random order, for 30 seconds each. During positive stimuli, pecks at the picture were reward at unpredictable intervals, on average once per 30 seconds.

After training, used 3 new Picassos, and 3 each also of new Monet, Cezzanne, Braque, and Delacroix an earlier “Romantic” history painter whose use of color influenced both the impressionists, and Picasso.)

Then tests

Test 1 was monochrome of all training pictures; Test 2 was out of focus (to examine the role of contour); Test 3 all the training S were used by 3 S+ and 3S- were upside down and 3 similarly were left-right reversed. plus six normal stimuli were presented; Test 4 was the new pictures.

(During transfer tests, no rewards at all were given)

Results: all birds maintained discrimination of black and white versions, but with reduced accuracy. Similarly they discriminated coloured, but out of focus, familiar pictures.

In test 4, birds trained to respond to Monet showed high rates to new Monets and to Renoir and Cezanne.

Birds trained to Picasso’s did not generalize quite as much to Braque and Matisse and may therefore have been memorizing individual pictures.

Responding to Delacroix was intermediate.






Many of the images used in this study can be examined at the Web museum site and in Hungary