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Background/ Other species - part 1

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Alex the Parrot

Alex was an African Grey parrot who was the subject of research conducted by Dr. Irene Pepperberg at the University of Arizona.  During his lifetime, Alex learned a 70-word vocabulary that includes thirty object names, seven colors, five shape adjectives, numbers up to 6, and a variety of other words including the abstract concepts of same and different.

Here follows a transcript of a dialogue:

Irene:  Okay, Alex, here's your tray. Will you tell me how many blue block?
Alex:  Block.
Irene:  That's right, block - how many blue block?
Alex:  Four.
Irene:  That's right. Do you want the block?
Alex:  Wanna nut.
Irene:  Okay, here's a nut.  (Waits while Alex eats the nut.)  Now, can you tell me how many green wool?
Alex:  Sisss...
Irene:  Good boy!

The parrot Alex’s talents in a peasized brain raise some very interesting questions.  Perhaps the cognitive processes required for symbolic communication are less complex than we tend to assume?

NEXT: Kanzi the Bonobo