Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Not mindless mimics

The image of parrots as mindless mimics has been challenged by a 30-year study that has found they can add, recognise shapes and colours and identify up to 100 different objects. The scientist publishing the research says that parrots, whose brains are almost the size of walnuts, compare with chimpanzees and dolphins in having a level of intelligence similar to that of small children. Their communication skills are similar to those of a two-year-old child, but their adding and ability with colours and shapes are more like a five or six-year-old, said Irene Pepperberg, associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, U.S.

She carried out her research with African grey parrots. Although her work was ridiculed at first, the depth of research has gained the respect of other scientists, who increasingly accept her arguments. Professor Pepperberg will publish her latest results in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Alex, the most accomplished of her birds, is able to name seven colours and five shapes and count or add up to six. He can identify, request and refuse about 100 different objects and uses phrases such as come here and wanna go. He can also understand concepts such as zero, objects being bigger and smaller than one another, and the same or different. In one experiment, Alex was presented with collections of four, five and six blocks of three different colours and was able to provide the correct answer: Four blue.


Pavithra said...

That was very nice. Parrots look great. Not only parrots..all animals and birds have a talent of their own. My cousin did a research on Brazillian monkeys ;-)

Live the Future said...

This research is also interesting in that it indicates how intelligence is not necessarily a function of brain size.