Polly Want A Cracker?

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Many of us have probably heard a parrot say, "Polly Want a Cracker?" on television or in a movie. Parrots are able to produce sounds resembling human speech, barking dogs and even vacuum cleaners. African grey parrots are even able to generate new thoughts. The question is whether these sounds that parrot makes are language or not.
Parrots cannot distinguish between the "a" and "i" sounds. How would they be able to communicate with or like us without distinguishing between these sounds? The answer is that what we call talking parrots are really only parrots mimicking sounds. The speech that is coming out of parrots is due to repetitions and not from actual language comprehension.
The grey parrot's speech is better because they have far greater mental capabilities than other parrot species. This allows them to generate some new thoughts. Now, let's not get excited about thinking that a person could have a grey parrot as a good pet and have meaningful conversations with it. The grey parrots' speech is also due to repetition, and they are not recommended as pets because they are in need of a constant companion, which would make them rather annoying.
I believe that the parrots may use language when they talk like humans, but there is no comprehension of what they are saying. Bringing up a commonly used psychology concept, operant conditioning is more than likely used to get the parrots to mimic the human sounds.

Video of Talking Parrot:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/26051/talking_parrot/

Resources:
http://www.2ndchance.info/parrottalk.htm
Textbook

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I've always found talking parrots to be extremely interesting, and that video is so incredibly cool. I never knew about the African Grey Parrot though, and I'm interested in learning more about their ability to generate new thoughts. I'm a little confused about how they express these thoughts. You mentioned that their way of using language is just mimicking sounds, and that there is not language comprehension, so how are they able to turn their thoughts into an English word?

Very interesting post. Although it is just repetition, I still find it really cool that they can repeat the sounds we make so well. Very impressive either way.

This is a very interesting post. Even though they are just mimicking sounds I still find it very interesting that they can even do that. I never realized that all they were really doing was mimicking sounds. I wonder if through time the Grey Parrot could have an actual conversation after all the sounds they hear?

I like this post and I am amazed that the African Grey Parrots do have some sort of comprehension. However I would like to know how they interpret it. Could they understand just meanings of certain words or could they understand a whole sentence. And can they pick up on emotional cues the person presents in their speech? That would be cool.

WOW! After watching the video I was amazed by how talented Einstein was. What incredible sound coming out of such a bird. His sound effects were absolutely amazing, and so accurate. What kind of training do you think goes into something like the video. I was blown away by how he was able to make the animal noises, even though some were stereotypical. I thought his evil impression was quite funny. I think its cool the ability to mimic such distinct sounds, because I feel as though most humans could mimic some of the noises that Einstein did. Thank you for showing the video along with the most, it was very interesting.

I have always thought that parrots just repeat what they hear, however, I am curious to find out how they are able to answer questions like Einstein did in the video. You said that parrots like this are able to generate their own thoughts, how can they do this if they just repeat things?

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This page contains a single entry by zind0018 published on March 2, 2012 6:47 PM.

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