Monday, April 27, 2015

Alex the Parrot

Model-Rival Training Technique

Today (4/27) we learned of an African grey parrot named Alex, who is known to be the first non-human animal to ever ask an existential question. Along with this, Alex is able to answer basic counting questions that include blocks and sticks. However, to get this way there is a lot of training involved. Dr. Irene M. Pepperberg developed a training procedure modeled after the Model-Rival system developed by Dr. Dietmar. The process in which Alex goes through to learn is complex and confusing and is explained in the article provided.

Another bird discussed in today's lectures is the crow and how using their intelligence they are able to accomplish certain tasks such as opening nuts by dropping them at intersections and having the cars break them open when their beaks can not. Along with this, the crows discussed in class are able to perform multiple tasks and figure out puzzles in order to get food. They are highly intelligible and quick to learn unlike squirrels who would just walk away from a problem.

Both cases provide enough information to prove that the phrase "bird brain" may be more a compliment than insult. This also shows that animals can be trained to perform great things and could maybe help perform tasks in which we would have previously done ourselves. Birds especially since they are always around.

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