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really liked it
Ms. Pepperberg began doing research on the cognitive capacities of a Gray parrot, Alex, in the 1970s, a time when animals were widely believed to be little more than bio-automatons, lacking not only intellectual capability, but emotions as well. Pepperberg endured years, decades of ridicule, scorn, resistance and a continuing challenge in attempting to find funding to persist with her work. This is her story of Alex, a remarkable animal, clearly possessed of great personality, intelligence, even
So, here’s what I expected: a touching memoir about the trials and tribulations — and joys and moments of wonder — of working closely with a remarkable creature.
I’ve heard it said that children often have an easier time bonding with animals than adults. If I were going to theorize, I’d say that maybe it’s because although animals may have an inner life that resembles that of humans — Alex certainly seemed to — it’s not often as developed in animals. They’re too busy surviving to spend much t
Irene Pepperberg was just finishing up a PhD in chemistry when a nature program on animal cognition caused her to abruptly change fields and begin the life-long study of the learning abilities of African Gray parrots. At the time she first purchased a 13-month old Gray from a Chicago pet store, prevailing behaviorist theory held that animals were strictly creatures of instinct, incapable of true language or higher order thinking. Pepperberg’s work with her bird Alex, along with similar work bein
There are several stories woven within Pepperberg’s memoir about her thirty years with Alex. She discusses her training methodology and the various breakthroughs they had that demonstrated Alex’s brain was clearly capable of doing all sorts of things science claimed he shouldn’t be able to do. There is another thread that traces Pepperberg’s struggle to gain funding and recognition for her work, her battles with academic politics and scientific dogma, and how her one pound ball of feathers helped to undermine centuries of human hubris regarding cognitive abilities we thought were unique to us.
Finally, this is also an emotional tale of a scientist who fell in love with her primary subject despite all of her efforts to maintain objectivity. It’s hard to say who was the real teacher in Pepperberg’s learning experiment with Alex, but there is no question the world is a richer place for their work together.