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ERIC Number: EJ1090611
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1524-8372
Can Young Children Distinguish Abstract Expressionist Art from Superficially Similar Works by Preschoolers and Animals?
Nissel, Jenny; Hawley-Dolan, Angelina; Winner, Ellen
Journal of Cognition and Development, v17 n1 p18-29 2016
While it is sometimes claimed that abstract art requires little skill and is indistinguishable from the scribbles of young children, recent research has shown that even adults with no training in art can distinguish works by abstract expressionists from superficially similar works by children and even elephants, monkeys, and apes (Hawley-Dolan & Winner, 2011). We presented 4-7- and 8-10-year-olds with 18 paired images, one in each pair by an abstract expressionist and the other by a child or animal, and asked which they preferred and which was better. Each participant viewed the first third of the pairs unlabeled and the rest either with correct or reversed labels (artist, and child, monkey, or elephant). Three unexpected findings emerged. First, even 4-7-year-olds can distinguish works by artists from superficially similar works by children and animals when there are no labels to guide them. Second, children's aesthetic responses are not aligned with those of adults: children often chose works labeled child or animal whether or not this label was correct, and sometimes justified their choices by crediting the effort the child or animal had made (e.g., "it's really good for an elephant"). Finally, children, like adults, were more likely to select artist images when making quality judgments than when indicating preferences, showing that they make a distinction between intuitive preference responses and more cognitive quality judgment responses. That even preschoolers can discriminate between works by abstract expressionists and works by children and animals underscores what is wrong with the oft-heard statement, "My kid could have done that."
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A