“Shigeru Watanabe Proves Art Is for the Birds”

Nippon.com profiles Ig Nobel Prize winner Shigeru Watanabe. It begins:

Japan’s Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Monet or Picasso? Japanese Researcher Watanabe Shigeru Proves Art Is for the Birds

Keiō University Professor Emeritus Watanabe Shigeru and colleagues won the Ig Nobel Prize in psychology in 1995 for showing that birds can distinguish between different styles of paintings. With more than a half century of experience under his belt, Watanabe continues to explore the secrets of animal behavior.

Developing an eye for art, it turns out, is not exclusive to humans. Watanabe Shigeru and colleagues at Keiō University, where he is a professor of psychology, trained pigeons to distinguish different paintings, including those by the masters Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso. What is the significance of this? For those studying comparative cognition, it showed that birds make sense of their world in ways not unlike humans.

The team earned the Ig Nobel Prize in psychology in 1995 for their efforts. The prize, launched in 1991 by Annals of Improbable Research editor Mark Abrahams, celebrates the quirkier side of scientific discovery. The research of Watanabe and others, though, is no joke.

Watanabe admits he took little heed of the Ig Nobel at first, viewing it as students at Harvard University “having a bit of fun.” He has since changed his tune and even attended a 2018 event in Tokyo highlighting the prize, which he described as “a fascinating exhibition of unique research.”

Watanabe stands out among Japan’s numerous Ig Nobel winners—28 and counting—as much for his unusual research topics as his exalted career (in 2020 he won the prestigious Japanese ornithological prize the Yamashina Yoshimaro Award for his decades of research into avian behavior)….