Researchers at Boston University have conducted an experiment in which they asked students to decide whether an abstract painting was created by an artist, a monkey, an elephant or Charlie Sheen. Wait, no, not Charlie Sheen. Just the artist, the monkey and the elephant.
In their paper Seeing the Mind Behind the Art, Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner study the way that people react to abstract paintings and the way that labelling affects the way that works of art are judged. Despite lurid headlines about art students not being able to tell the difference between a ‘real’ abstract painting and one by an elephant, the reality of the study is that for the most part observers were able to make a distinction.
The essay, published in this month’s Psychological Science journal, did find, however, that psychology students were more likely to get mixed up between the various works of art, suggesting that these students had a different way of looking at the paintings.