Bees are smart and artsy

Honey bees have long been shown able to learn different colors, shapes, and patterns. Noble prize winner Karl R. von Frisch [1] started studying this many years ago. A few years back, Shaowu Zhang [2] in Australia showed that honey bees can count up to four. Another study showed that bees may be able to recognize human faces [3]. So why not see if bees are smart enough to generalize two very different style of paintings?

The authors of this study [4] show that honey bees are able to discriminate between five different Monet and Picasso paintings. They present them with either the color or grayscale version and bees do equally well, suggest that bees do not use luminance or color, but most likely by “style”. In other words, bees might be “extracting and learning the characteristic visual information inherent in each painting style”. The authors boldly declares that, therefore, artistic style generalization is not a unique-to-human function, but other animals might possess it.

1. Wiki, 2014.

2. Gross HJ, Pahl M, Si A, Zhu H, Tautz J, et al. (2009) Number-Based Visual Generalisation in the Honeybee. PLoS ONE 4(1): e4263. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004263

3. Dyer AG1, Neumeyer C, Chittka L. (2005). Honeybee (Apis mellifera) vision can discriminate between and recognise images of human faces. J Exp Biol. 208(Pt 24):4709-14.

4. Wu, W.,A.M. Moreno, J. M. Tangen, J. Reinhard. (2013). Honeybees can discriminate between Monet and Picasso paintings
Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 199:45-55

Author: Zachary Huang

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