The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots

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9780674008069: The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots

Can a parrot understand complex concepts and mean what it says? Since the early 1900s, most studies on animal-human communication have focused on great apes and a few cetacean species. Birds were rarely used in similar studies on the grounds that they were merely talented mimics--that they were, after all, "birdbrains." Experiments performed primarily on pigeons in Skinner boxes demonstrated capacities inferior to those of mammals; these results were thought to reflect the capacities of all birds, despite evidence suggesting that species such as jays, crows, and parrots might be capable of more impressive cognitive feats.

Twenty years ago Irene Pepperberg set out to discover whether the results of the pigeon studies necessarily meant that other birds--particularly the large-brained, highly social parrots--were incapable of mastering complex cognitive concepts and the rudiments of referential speech. Her investigation and the bird at its center--a male Grey parrot named Alex--have since become almost as well known as their primate equivalents and no less a subject of fierce debate in the field of animal cognition. This book represents the long-awaited synthesis of the studies constituting one of the landmark experiments in modern comparative psychology.

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Review:

When Irene Pepperberg, a professor at the University of Arizona, says goodnight, she typically hears the reply "Bye. I'm gonna go eat dinner. I'll see you tomorrow." Though the response itself is not unusual, the source is, for it comes from Alex, a gray parrot, Pepperberg's main research subject for the past 22 years. That parrots can talk is well known; what Pepperberg set out to study was their cognitive abilities. By teaching the bird the meaning--not just the sound--of words in order to communicate, she hoped to discover how his brain worked. She exhaustively details her fascinating results in The Alex Studies.

Pepperberg bought Alex--a parrot of average intelligence and without lofty pedigree or training--from a pet store when he was 1. Since working with Pepperberg, he has developed a 100-word vocabulary and can identify 50 different objects, recognizing quantities up to six, distinguishing seven colors and five shapes, and understanding the difference between big and small, same and different, over and under. He can tell you, for instance, that corn is yellow even if there is no corn in view, as well as correctly select the square object among various shapes and identify it verbally. What this all means, stresses Pepperberg, is that Alex is not merely parroting but actually thinking; he bases answers on reason rather than instinct or mimicry.

Though the anecdotes are rich and Alex makes a lively subject, this is principally a research paper relying on intricate details and a prodigious amount of data (the notes and references alone run to 79 pages). This is not light reading, particularly for the layperson. Still, The Alex Studies manages to be more than a valuable contribution to science, for in providing ample evidence of our similarities to other creatures, the book ultimately calls into question the concept of human supremacy over the animal kingdom. Pepperberg's stated goal is "to provoke awareness in humans that animals have capacities that are far greater than we were once led to expect, and to remind us that all we need to examine these capacities are some enlightened research tools." She has provided such tools in this seminal work. --Shawn Carkonen

From the Back Cover:

Irene Pepperberg's studies of Alex are some of the most remarkable and significant in the whole field of animal cognition. Her evidence stands up to the closest scrutiny, and Alex the parrot turns out to have cognitive abilities that were not even suspected before Pepperberg began her work. (Marian Dawkins, University of Oxford )

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Pepperberg, Irene Maxine
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Descripción HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Harvard Univ PR. Language: English . Brand New Book. Can a parrot understand complex concepts and mean what is says? Since the early s, most studies on animal-human communication have focused on great apes and a few cetacean species. Birds were rarely used in similar studies on the grounds that they were merely talented mimics -that they were, after all, birdbrains . Experiments performed primarily on pigeons in Skinner boxes demonstrated capacities inferior to those of mammals; these results were thought to reflect the capacities of all birds, despite evidence suggesting that species such a s jays, crows, and parrots might be capable of more impressive cognitive feats. Twenty years ago Irene Pepperberg set out to discover whether the results of the pigeon studies necessarily meant that other birds -particularly the large-brained, highly social parrots - were incapable of mastering complex cognitive concepts and the rudiments of referential speech. her investigation and the bird at its centre - a male Grey parrot named Alex - have since become almost as well known as their primate equivalents and no less a subject of fierce debate in the field of animal cognition. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9780674008069

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Descripción HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Harvard Univ PR. Language: English . Brand New Book. Can a parrot understand complex concepts and mean what is says? Since the early s, most studies on animal-human communication have focused on great apes and a few cetacean species. Birds were rarely used in similar studies on the grounds that they were merely talented mimics -that they were, after all, birdbrains . Experiments performed primarily on pigeons in Skinner boxes demonstrated capacities inferior to those of mammals; these results were thought to reflect the capacities of all birds, despite evidence suggesting that species such a s jays, crows, and parrots might be capable of more impressive cognitive feats. Twenty years ago Irene Pepperberg set out to discover whether the results of the pigeon studies necessarily meant that other birds -particularly the large-brained, highly social parrots - were incapable of mastering complex cognitive concepts and the rudiments of referential speech. her investigation and the bird at its centre - a male Grey parrot named Alex - have since become almost as well known as their primate equivalents and no less a subject of fierce debate in the field of animal cognition. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9780674008069

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Descripción HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Harvard Univ PR. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Can a parrot understand complex concepts and mean what is says? Since the early s, most studies on animal-human communication have focused on great apes and a few cetacean species. Birds were rarely used in similar studies on the grounds that they were merely talented mimics -that they were, after all, birdbrains . Experiments performed primarily on pigeons in Skinner boxes demonstrated capacities inferior to those of mammals; these results were thought to reflect the capacities of all birds, despite evidence suggesting that species such a s jays, crows, and parrots might be capable of more impressive cognitive feats. Twenty years ago Irene Pepperberg set out to discover whether the results of the pigeon studies necessarily meant that other birds -particularly the large-brained, highly social parrots - were incapable of mastering complex cognitive concepts and the rudiments of referential speech. her investigation and the bird at its centre - a male Grey parrot named Alex - have since become almost as well known as their primate equivalents and no less a subject of fierce debate in the field of animal cognition. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780674008069

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Descripción Harvard University Press, 2002. PAP. Estado de conservación: New. New Book. Shipped from UK in 4 to 14 days. Established seller since 2000. Nº de ref. de la librería WH-9780674008069

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