Investigations Of Parrot Sounds
Have you ever wondered whether or not those marvelous parrot sounds, human words for example, actually mean anything? Some researchers absolutely think they do. One African Grey parrot expert, Irene Maxine Pepperberg, has worked with two very famous parrots, the first whose name was Alex. Because of the huge vocabulary, of over 1000 words, she was able to teach him, and because he could work identically with other trainers, those in Pepperberg's camp believe that the more intelligent parrots are able to genuinely communicate.
Pepperberg and her colleagues use something called the Model Rival Technique, which requires two trainers, one to give the commands, the other to exhibit the desired behavior. The trainer, or parrot's rival, models both the desired and undesired behavior, and then the parrot is enticed to compete with the trainer for the commander trainer's attention. A deeply-seated animal instinct, rivalry can elicit lots of behaviors, and these behaviors, Pepperberg believes, prove that the brilliant birds have the ability to communicate.
Alex proved a marvelous student. Not only was he able to answer questions for his primary trainer, Ms. Pepperberg, but he was also equally able to answer other trainers as well. But not everyone is convinced. They base their disagreements on a case that occurred in 1907 and a phenomenon that came to be called the "Clever Hans" syndrome. A horse was seemingly trained to do arithmetic problems. At first the results seemed astonishing. But then it was discovered that the trainer was giving subtle clues that the horse picked up. Whether or not the clues were intentionally given, it was proved that the horse really couldn't do low-level math. The difference with Alex seems to be that he can answer the questions given by more than one trainer, and he can do it simply through sound without the trainer even being visible. So at this point you'll just have to decide for yourself!
Alex didn't live the long, full life he was expected to, and no one really knows what caused his demise. On September 6, 2007 he was found dead, but he has not been forgotten. Pepperberg created the Alex Foundation to make money to support her research with other African Grey's.
No matter what you believe about the parrot's ability to truly communicate, there can be no doubt about its intelligence and beauty. With a lot of patience, training, and love, they can do many things in addition to just making parrot sounds.
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