Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blue Block!

Alex, the African Grey Parrot who was the subject of 30 years of research into the intelligence and thought pattenrs of birds -- and who had learned 150 words and was able to communicate quite effectively with researchers, died earlier this month.
Dr. Pepperberg’s pioneering research resulted in Alex learning elements of English speech to identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X” and “Wanna go Y”, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence. Alex combined his labels to identify, request, refuse, and categorize more than 100 different items demonstrating a level and scope of cognitive abilities never expected in an avian species
I remember watching television specials about Alex, and being astounded that he really did seem to understand the words he was saying -- he created new words and word combinations that were meaningful and effectively communicated what he wanted.

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