summary Summary

A study looked at whether people prefer human-created artwork to AI-generated artwork. The answer is yes, but it's complicated.


For the two-phase study, researchers recruited 150 participants for each phase from online platforms and asked them to rate 30 AI artworks selected from the art platform "Artbreeder" in different categories (liking, beauty, profundity, and worth for the first study; story, emotion, meaningfulness, effort, and time to create for the second study).

All images used in the study were AI artworks, but some were labeled as "human-created" and some were labeled as "AI-created". The labels were randomized: 15 of the artworks showed abstract art, and the other 15 showed more concrete objects or scenes.

Zwei Beispiele der KI-generierten Kunstwerke, die in der Studie verwendet wurden.
Two examples of the AI-generated artworks used in the study. All images can be viewed here. | Image: Artbreeder, Duke University

AI art can be beautiful, but is less meaningful to humans

In the first study, artworks labeled "human" were rated higher than those labeled "created by AI" in several categories. From this, the researchers inferred an underlying "anti-AI bias." AI art would be rated lower and seen as less valuable and profound, which could be indicative of future consumption of AI art.


The second study replicated the first, but expanded it to include questions about emotional response, the history of the artwork, its potential meaning, and the effort and time required to create it. Again, AI art presented as human art was rated as higher quality and more meaningful in several categories.

An interesting finding of the second study was that participants were more likely to believe in and value a story behind the artwork when it was presented as supposedly human art, which in turn had a positive effect on the purely sensory enjoyment of the art.

Not surprisingly, people who were more critical of AI in general also rated AI art more critically, especially in the meaningful category, and vice versa.

Are human artists safe because they are human?

The results of the study suggest that people assume that human artists bring their own real-world experiences to their art, which enhances it - apparently regardless of actual craftsmanship, since all the works in the study were AI-generated. Art was rated higher simply because participants thought it was made by humans.

Overall, the differences in the likeability and beauty categories were small, which also underscores how relevant the human aspect of art creation is to human perception.


In summary, although both studies showed that AI is technically capable of creating art that humans appreciate, human preference still lies with art created by humans.

This underscores that our appreciation of art goes beyond actual craftsmanship to include the emotional, intellectual, and anecdotal dimensions that are (still) uniquely human.

Creative products like art may be achieved — according to human raters — by non-human AI models, but only to a limited extent that still protects a valued anthropocentrism (editor's note: humans are at the center).

From the study

But, after all, AI art also originates from human ideas and input, is subject to human selection and composition, and can therefore carry and tell human stories. The models are also trained on human art. This shows how complex the topic is, and that the study cited above can and will provide at best an interesting insight, but certainly not a final verdict.

Join our community
Join the DECODER community on Discord, Reddit or Twitter - we can't wait to meet you.
Support our independent, free-access reporting. Any contribution helps and secures our future. Support now:
Bank transfer
  • A study examined people's preference for human-created art versus AI-generated art. The results show that people still prefer what they believe to be human-created art. However, all of the images used in the study were AI-generated.
  • The study found that art labeled "human-created" was rated higher than art labeled "AI-generated" in several categories. Thus, the actual quality of the artwork was likely not the deciding factor.
  • Although AI is technically capable of creating art that humans appreciate, our appreciation of art also seems to depend on emotional, intellectual, and anecdotal aspects that we uniquely attribute to humans.
Online journalist Matthias is the co-founder and publisher of THE DECODER. He believes that artificial intelligence will fundamentally change the relationship between humans and computers.
Join our community
Join the DECODER community on Discord, Reddit or Twitter - we can't wait to meet you.