Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

Alex & Me is the remarkable true story of an extraordinary relationship between psychologist Irene M. Pepperberg and Alex, an African grey parrot who proved scientists and accepted wisdom wrong by demonstrating an astonishing ability to communicate and understand complex ideas. A New York Times bestseller and selected as one of the paper’s Top Ten Books of the Year, Al

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    Will Byrnes

    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

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    Jessica

    Aug 21, 2010

    rated it
    it was ok

     · 
    review of another edition

    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

    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 time navel-gazing. Perhaps in their understanding of self, they’ve developed to a state equivalent to that of a young child, and therefore, children relate very easily to them and vice versa.

    I do not mean to sound insulting to Dr. Pepperberg when I say this, as she’s clearly a woman of outstanding intelligence and perseverance. But she also comes across as someone who never finished growing up, and unfortunately, that immaturity is highlighted in this memoir.

    There’s actually not much space spent, in an already slight book, on her relationship with Alex. Instead, the main theme seems to be: “No one in academia, including my husband, believed in my work with Alex. They were very mean to me. Alex showed them, though, and so did I!”

    Pepperberg spends a while talking about her childhood, indignantly telling us about a scarring experience from her childhood, wherein she was too painfully shy to thank a baker for a cookie she was offered, and handed it back when the baker teasingly asked for it, and her mother was annoyed with her.

    Honey, if that’s the worst experience you can remember from your childhood…well, maybe you’re better off not writing about that part of your life if you’re looking for sympathy.

    Pepperberg also attributes the worst possible motivations to anyone who wasn’t 100% behind her. At one point, she tells us about telling a department admin that she’s getting married. The admin asks her when she’ll be leaving the department.

    Now, this took place in (if I recall correctly) the 60s or 70s, so that would hardly be an uncommon question. Most women at that time *did* retire when they married, to focus on being a homemaker and, eventually, a mother.

    Pepperberg assumes the woman is bitter because she doesn’t have an academic career, and is thinking Hurray! Now a man can take this woman’s position, as is appropriate. She doesn’t describe anything about the woman’s behavior that would suggest such pettiness and resentment behind her common assumption, but clearly expects us to sympathize with her indignant reaction.

    Further, while I haven’t read any of Pepperberg’s academic work, if she writes there like she does here, I understand why she had a hard time being taken seriously.

    When young Alex doesn’t cooperate one day, she writes in her journal: “Alex being incredibly stupid today!”

    Who above the age of 10 thinks in those terms about an animal — or even a young human — that they’re teaching? When it comes to animals, any good trainer knows that A) animals have moods too, and B) in general, if an animal is repeatedly misbehaving, it’s usually the fault of the trainer, not the animal. It seems rather immature on Pepperberg’s part to be thinking — and journaling — in terms of “stupidity” rather than a lack of cooperation.

    I feel bad for her, more than anything else. Bright kids often have trouble learning to socialize normally, and it seems like Pepperberg suffered from this and the resulting social anxiety and was never helped — or forced — to get past it and finish growing up.

    All in all, the memoir is frustratingly self-centered, Pepperberg comes across as fairly unlikable, and we don’t get nearly enough of Alex. The prose is readable, but Pepperberg is obnoxious enough that I ended up skimming for Alex’s name and reading those sections, while skipping past the rest.
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    Lena

    Nov 30, 2008

    rated it
    really liked it

     · 
    review of another edition

    Shelves:
    memoir

    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.

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