Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #62
CE Offered: BACB

Numerical Competence in the Grey Parrot

Saturday, May 26, 2012
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
303/304 (TCC)
Area: VRB; Domain: Basic Research
CE Instructor: Caio F. Miguel, Ph.D.
Chair: Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)
IRENE PEPPERBERG (Harvard University)
Dr. Pepperberg received her SB from MIT and M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. She is currently a Research Associate and Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Harvard and an Adjunct Associate Professor at Brandeis University's Psychology Department. She has been a visiting associate professor at MIT's Media Lab, later accepting a research scientist position there, leaving a tenured professorship at the University of Arizona. She has been a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, won a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, was an alternate for the Cattell Award for Psychology, won the 2000 Selby Fellowship (Australian Academy of Sciences), won the 2005 Frank Beach Award for best paper in comparative psychology, was nominated for the 2000 Weizmann, L'Oreal, and Grawemeyer Awards, the 2001 Quest Award (Animal Behavior Society) and was renominated for the 2001 L'Oreal Award. She has also received fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim and Whitehall Foundations, and numerous grants from NSF. Her book, The Alex Studies, describing over 20 years of peer-reviewed experiments on Grey parrots, received favorable mention from publications as diverse as the New York Times and Science. Her memoir, Alex & Me, is a New York Times bestseller. She has presented her findings nationally and internationally at universities and scientific congresses, often as a keynote or plenary speaker, and has published numerous journal articles, reviews, and book chapters. She is a fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the American Ornithologists' Union, AAAS, the Eastern Psychological Association, and presently serves as consulting editor for three journals and as associate editor for The Journal of Comparative Psychology.

A Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) had previously been taught to use English count words ("one" through "sih" [six]) to label sets of one to six individual items (Pepperberg, 1994). He had also been taught to use the same count words to label the Arabic numerals 1 through 6. Without training, he inferred the relationship between the Arabic numerals and the sets of objects (Pepperberg, 2006b). In the present study, he was then trained to label vocally the Arabic numerals 7 and 8 ("sih-none," "eight," respectively) and to order these Arabic numerals with respect to the numeral 6. He subsequently inferred the ordinality of 7 and 8 with respect to the smaller numerals and he inferred use of the appropriate label for the cardinal values of seven and eight items. These data suggest that he constructed the cardinal meanings of "seven" ("sih-none") and "eight" from his knowledge of the cardinal meanings of one through six, together with the place of "seven" ("sih-none") and "eight" in the ordered count list.

Keyword(s): animal cognition, animal language, Inferences, Numerical competence



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