A study reported on in Psychology Today set out to determine whether people could distinguish abstract art from paintings done by monkeys (as well as children and other animals, like elephants). Turns out, most people can usually tell the stuff done by artists from the stuff done by your five-year-old.
For a paper in press at Psychological Science, Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner of Boston University collected 72 undergrads, 32 of which were studio-art majors, and showed them 30 paintings by abstract expressionists. Each painting was paired with a painting by a child, a monkey, a chimpanzee, a gorilla, or an elephant. The images were matched on superficial attributes such as color, line quality, and brushstroke, and subjects were asked which piece they personally liked more, and which they thought was a better work of art.
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