Emotional Birds—Or Advanced Cognitive Processing?
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Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) have been shown to exhibit many complex cognitive and communicative abilities in a laboratory setting. The parrots’ successes likely rely on two factors: (a) an underlying neurological architecture that supports complex information processing, and (b) training involving social interaction and contextually-applicable rewards that enables them to express their capacities in ways measurable by human researchers (Pepperberg, The Alex Studies, 1999). Sometimes their behavior could not, however, be predicted from either their biology or their training, but rather involved what, in humans, would be called an emotional response to a situation. This paper describes four such situations, involving object permanence, phonation, insightful string-pulling, and numerical concepts. Each of these situations also required considerable cognitive processing; interestingly, such processing was seemingly stimulated by the concomitant emotional state. I thus suggest the possible existence in Grey parrots of a connection between emotional responses and cognitive processing such that their interaction synergistically supports successful outcomes, possibly related to how affect influences mental processing in humans.
KeywordsEmotional Response Phonological Awareness Cognitive Processing Object Permanence Grey Parrot
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