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Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot…

Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of… (2008)

by Irene M. Pepperberg

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8016316,745 (3.89)47

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Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Not until the end of this book does Pepperberg wax philosophical to any degree. The story of the amazing Alex is one much more important than a cute parrot playfully challenging its owner and its trainers. It’s a story of giving the animal world its due as a full fledged member of the same universe that man occupies. Not as equals, but with the same importance in the scheme of things. The farther we as a species have gotten from this notion, the more destructive we have become. And if current political arrogance toward climate change is any indicator, we’re doomed. ( )
  DanDiercks | Nov 18, 2018 |
I listened to the audiobook which was 5 segments, a fairly short book. I very much enjoyed the biographical bits of Pepperberg's youth, her education experience leading to a PhD in Chemistry, her struggles throughout her research and the descriptions of the variety of places where she did the work, and the descriptions of the training method and information found. The best parts were the little stories about Alex and her which went above and beyond the strict science. I loved this book. ( )
  ajlewis2 | Jul 11, 2018 |
I cried the day that Alex died.

[b: Alex and Me|23136460|Alex and Me|Amy Charles|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|42684066] is a chronicle of the life and education of the African Grey Parrot Alex, under the care of [a: Irene Pepperberg|17165545|Irene Pepperberg|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/u_50x66-632230dc9882b4352d753eedf9396530.png]. Alex's life was an inspirational and instructive one, and it's only after reading this book that I truly appreciate the difficulties that Dr. Pepperberg faced in getting people to understand just how much Alex was capable of - and even then, it's common knowledge within the cognitive ethologist community that Dr. Pepperberg downplayed many of his accomplishments.

Alex was the first bird to scientifically show that birds are capable of great feats of intelligence. He showed an understanding of phonemes, of the concept of zero, of same/different, bigger/smaller, and even optical illusions. Alex showed intention, or at least seemed to in a truly great way. We aren't so different, as a species, from animals as we think; not even from birds.

Alex remains, in my mind, a beacon of the interconnectedness of animals and humans. He was an amazing bird, and I'm glad that The Alex Project is continuing even to this day. I hope his story remains strong in the global consciousness and that Dr. Pepperberg continues to succeed in her work.

Why should primates get all the press, after all? ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Interesting, but I found myself wishing that it focused more on Alex (and his achievements) and less on some of the background stuff. I had also never really considered just how bored some of these lab animals must get, being asked the same questions over and over again. ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
Even though he's so famous that the author had to devote the entire opening chapter to how many people recognized and mourned his death, I'd never heard of this parrot until I saw other book reviews about it. Alex and Me is about the author's work with him, training him to label objects with words and answer questions so she could delve into how complex his thinking process might be. I was pretty impressed with his accomplishments: correctly naming colors, shapes, textures, quantities. Learning to compare and categorize. Learning phrases from what students around him said and applying them to correct contexts. Showing understanding of the concept of zero. And more. A lot of the descriptions of how she taught him and how obstinately he often refused to do repetitive drills, reminded me of reading books on language experiments with apes. Much of this book is about Pepperberg's struggles in academia: trying to secure jobs, find funding, secure recognition from the scientific community, dealing with frequent moves and marital stress. It was interesting to me how particular she was with words in describing her project when seeking grants or giving lectures. For example, she wanted to be dissociated from the furor that was arising challenging the claims of those who taught apes sign language so she never said Alex learned words or names for things, instead she called them "labels". Also curious was how little passion comes through these pages; she didn't seem to have a very close relationship with Alex, or at least didn't express it. In fact, she mentioned a few times how she tried to keep her distance from him so their relationship would remain a clinical one appropriate for the study. Understandable, but it made reading the book a little cold. Overall, I was very intrigued with the work she did with Alex and wanted to learn more. I'm definitely going to try and find her other book The Alex Studies to read, it seems like that one goes into more depth and this book felt a bit lacking to me. I kept wanting more detail, more explanations, even more anecdotes than she provided.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | May 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
This ornery reviewer tried to resist Alex’s charms on principle (the principle that says any author who keeps telling us how remarkable her subject is cannot possibly be right). But his achievements got the better of me.
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Book description
On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous--two pioneers who opened an unprecedented windo into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, bird were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality. We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin--despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one university to another. The sotry of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond. [adapted from book jacket]
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This story of Alex, a famous African Grey parrot, documents his thirty-year relationship with his trainer and the ways in which his life has changed scientific understanding about language and thought.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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