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I'll connect all of your responses in one post for brevity
At 08:01 AM 1/19/2002 -0800, you wrote:
>>At 11:06 PM 1/18/2002 -0800, you wrote:
>>> >Salice wrote
>>> >Is the 'self' required for memetic processes?
>>And you replied
>>>It is necessary for communication by means of a commonly understood,
>>>created and arbitrary language (as opposed to instinctual calls).
>>Doesn't the fact that animals can dream mean that they have a self? I have
>>less objections to your term 'self-awareness' even though I'm not fond of
>>it either. In any case Irene Maxine Pepperberg's work with parrots
>>demonstrates that these animals are capable of using words if properly
>Making sounds that sound like words and using words are not the same thing.
>When I beat my chest I am not communicating with gorillas. Birds can be
>taught to repeat certain sounds to please their trainers, but I seriously
>doubt they are consciously communicating meaning with their sounds. They
>have just learned that making some sounds will cause people to reward them
>with food or attention. I don't believe they are really "saying" anything.
I would have thought that HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS as a publisher might
cause someone to take a second look but let me summarize a bit.
The experiments were fairly simple. First they taught the parrot a number
of words for different objects using what is called a rival/model method
where a human was seen receiving a reward for giving the correct name for
an object. Over time the parrot learned the names for the objects. Then
the rival was given rewards for a correct response to a question about the
property of an object like "Color key" for a green key would get a reward
if the rival correctly identified the key as green. Other properties like
the number of objects, and whether the object was smooth or rough were
taught. To test the truth whether the parrot had learned these abstract
qualities the parrot was not originally taught to distinguish the qualities
of certain objects that it knew the names for. So for example the parrot
may have learned to distinguish colors for keys and blocks but not
paper. Then the parrot was asked to identify the color of those objects
and gave the correct response. Naturally all sorts of controls were
introduced to make sure that the parrot was not receiving cues from its
This requires more than simple repetition of phrases but an ability to
recognize the abstract properties of an item. The parrot has to be able to
understand what 'color' or 'how much' refers to.
Pepperberg has been doing experiments since the mid 70's and from what I
can tell is THE leading researcher in the field of avian cognitive
studies. She has published dozens of papers in well respected
journals. Her parrot Alex is not as famous as animals like Koko, but I
believe there have been documentaries done of Pepperberg's work and she has
appeared on news shows like the U.S.'s leading morning news program 'Today'.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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