And we’re back. We’re rested, we’re rejuvenated, and we’re ready for Season 4 of Many Minds! We’re also, frankly, a bit hot. As I am recording this there is a heat dome parked over California and there is sweat under my headphones.
But, more to the point, we’ve got a great episode to kick the new season off. My guest today is Dr. Irene Pepperberg. For more than forty years now, Irene has been doing groundbreaking research on parrots, with a focus on how they think and communicate. She is best known for her work with an African Grey parrot named Alex. Alex learned English words for numbers, shapes, colors, and more; he asked questions and talked to himself; he sometimes even invented words of his own. He was, in short, pretty remarkable.
In this conversation, Irene and I talk about Alex, as well as his successors in the lab, Griffin and Athena. We talk about these animals’ histories and personalities and their most impressive feats. We discuss how parrots are like human children in some ways—and unlike them in others. And while we talk a lot about verbal abilities, we also discuss visual working memory, delayed gratification, and optical illusions. Finally, we touch on the power of symbols, parrot communication and cognition in the wild, and the future of animal communication research.
One quick production note: there are just couple of patches of fuzzy audio here. Please do stick with it though—things get smooth later on and this conversation is just too chock full of cool stuff, really wouldn’t want you to miss it.
Alright friends, a very warm welcome back, and on to my chat with Dr. Irene Pepperberg. Enjoy!