Can people tell the difference between professional abstract art and children’s fingerpaintings?

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Museumgoers often scoff that costly abstract expressionist paintings could have been made by a child and have mistaken paintings by chimpanzees for professional art. To test whether people really conflate paintings by professionals with paintings by children and animals, we showed art and nonart students paired images, one by an abstract expressionist and one by a child or animal, and asked which they liked more and which they judged as better. The first set of pairs was presented without labels; the second set had labels (e.g., “artist,” “child”) that were either correct or reversed. Participants preferred professional paintings and judged them as better than the nonprofessional paintings even when the labels were reversed. Art students preferred professional works more often than did nonart students, but the two groups’ judgments did not differ. Participants in both groups were more likely to justify their selections of professional than of nonprofessional works in terms of artists’ intentions. The world of abstract art is more accessible than people realize.

Source: “Seeing the Mind Behind the Art, People Can Distinguish Abstract Expressionist Paintings From Highly Similar Paintings by Children, Chimps, Monkeys, and Elephants” from Psychological Science

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