Monday, July 11, 2005

Parrot understands concept of zero

A researcher at Brandeis University shows that"bird-brain" may not be such an insult:

A Brandeis University researcher has shown that an African grey parrot with a walnut-sized brain understands a numerical concept akin to zero – an abstract notion that humans don't typically understand until age three or four, and that can significantly challenge learning-disabled children.

Strikingly, Alex, the 28-year-old parrot who lives in a Brandeis lab run by comparative psychologist and cognitive scientist Dr. Irene Pepperberg, spontaneously and correctly used the label "none" during a testing session of his counting skills to describe an absence of a numerical quantity on a tray. This discovery prompted a series of trials in which Alex consistently demonstrated the ability to identify zero quantity by saying the label "none."

So, besides their making me wheeze, I now have another reason to be uncomfortble around the critters: they may be better at math than I am.

(Hat tip: pjoe)

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