Cognitive and Communicative Capacities of Grey Parrots --- and The Implications of Such Studies

Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 7:00pm
8th fl
Irene Pepperberg

For the past 25 years I have been studying the cognitive and communicative abilities of Grey parrots; although considered merely 'bird brains', their capacities match those of chimpanzees and marine mammals, and on some tasks match those of 4-6 year old children. Other companion animals also likely have been underrated with respect to their intelligence. One goal of my research at the Media Lab has been to capitalize on animal capacities to design systems that can be used both for enrichment and as tools to investigate further their various abilities.

Lecturer Biography: 

Irene Pepperberg received her SB from MIT and her graduate degrees from Harvard. Beginning in September 1999, she became a visiting associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, and recently accepted a research scientist position there, leaving a tenured professorship at the University of Arizona. She is also a research associate professor in the Dept of Psychology at Brandeis University. She won a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for her 1997 sabbatical, was an alternate for the Cattell Award for Psychology, won the 2000 Selby Fellowship from the Australian Academy of Sciences, and was nominated for the 2000 Weizmann, L'Oreal, and Grawemeyer Awards. She has also received fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim and Whitehall Foundations, and numerous grants from the National Science Foundation. Her book, The Alex Studies, describing over 20 years of peer-reviewed studies on cognitive and communicative abilities of Grey parrots, received favorable mention from publications as diverse as the New York Times and Science. She has presented her findings nationally and internationally at numerous universities and scientific congresses. She is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the American Ornithologists' Union, AAAS, and presently serves as consulting editor for three journals.