Original Paper

Animal Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 227-234

First online:

Discriminative and reinforcing properties of paintings in Java sparrows (Padda oryzivora)

  • Yuko IkkataiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Keio UniversityJapan Society for the Promotion of Science Email author 
  • , Shigeru WatanabeAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Keio University

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Previous studies suggest that non-human animals can discriminate two different artworks (such as music or paintings) that were created by humans. However, such studies rarely examined whether those animals were reinforced by one artwork more than another. It has been shown that music composed by humans has both discriminative and reinforcing properties when played for Java sparrows. Here, we investigated the effects of another artistic medium in Java sparrows, namely paintings. The first experiment tested the reinforcing properties. Staying time at three painting categories—Japanese, cubist, and impressionist—was measured as an index of their reinforcing properties. The second experiment used operant conditioning to reveal the discriminative properties of the different artistic styles of such paintings. Results suggest that the paintings have both discriminative and reinforcing properties for Java sparrows. However, the reinforcing properties vary from individual to individual. This is the first report demonstrating reinforcing properties of visual artworks in non-human animals.


Discriminative property Reinforcing property Paintings Java sparrows