Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Skepchick: Birds -- Smart? Or Scary Smart?

Birds: Smart? Or SCARY SMART?
Skepchick Podcast

Everybody knows parrots talk, but does Polly actually want a cracker, or has she just learned to mimic that sentence?

The debate over animal cognition goes way back. Darwin and Descartes had differing views on the subject, with Descartes falling on the side of disbelief.

But has science shed any light on this debate over the years? Many studies have been done on primates, mostly on the ones most similar to humans, but what about animals that could hardly be more genetically different from us? Descendants of the dinosaur with wings, a walnut sized brain, and opposable claws? Parrots, despite these defiantly un-human characteristics, are one of the few types of birds and only animals to vocalize human speech. But do they mean what they say, or are they just "parroting" the words.

In this episode of Curiosity Aroused, Stacey Baker gives an overview of the science on avian cognition, focusing mostly on the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her African Grey parrot, Alex.

To Listen to the Episode

No comments: