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Humans Struggle to Differentiate Between Paintings Created by AI and Humans

Updated: Jun 29


In a fascinating study published in the journal Empirical Studies within the Arts, researcher Harsha Gangadharbatla delves into the intriguing realm of human perception when it comes to distinguishing between art created by artificial intelligence (AI) and that made by humans. The study involved a survey designed to test participants' ability to differentiate between human and AI generated artworks. The results revealed an intriguing insight into the challenges humans face in discerning the origin of art in the age of AI.


ai generated paintings
from Harsha Gangadharbatla studies

Survey Methodology and Artworks


The survey included a collection of landscape paintings and abstract artworks. The human artworks, created by artists Tom Bailey and Steve Johnson, encompassed impressionistic landscapes and geometric abstractions. On the other hand, the computer-generated artworks were produced by an AI algorithm. The goal was to determine whether participants could accurately identify which artworks were crafted by AI and which were the result of human creativity. The findings of the study unveiled a surprising reality – a significant majority of participants struggled to distinguish between AI generated art and human-made art. When examining the landscape paintings, most respondents correctly identified fewer than 20% of the AI generated pieces, with over 75% incorrectly attributing the remaining four artworks. Interestingly, participants exhibited slightly better discernment when it came to abstract artworks, hinting at a potential association of abstraction with AI and subjective art with human creators.


Implications and Insights:

The study's results shed light on the evolving relationship between AI and human creativity, challenging the traditional notion that art is a distinctly human endeavor. The inability to consistently identify AI generated art showcases the remarkable advancements in AI algorithms and their ability to mimic human artistic expression. It raises intriguing questions about the future of art, the blurring boundaries between human and AI creativity, and the evolving role of AI in shaping artistic landscapes.


The Role of Abstraction and Perception:

The study's observation that participants demonstrated slightly better accuracy in discerning abstract artworks suggests a potential correlation between abstraction and AI-generated art. The objective and unconventional nature of abstract pieces may align more closely with the perceived aesthetic of AI, leading to a more pronounced differentiation. This association highlights the complex interplay between artistic styles, human perception, and the influence of AI in creative domains.


Final Thoughts


The study's findings underline the challenges humans face in distinguishing between art created by AI and humans. As AI continues to advance in its artistic capabilities, blurring the lines between human and machine creativity, the definition and perception of art are being redefined. The study provides valuable insights into the impact of AI on the art world and prompts further exploration of the evolving relationship between technology and artistic expression.


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