“We had students concentrating in engineering, pre-meds, this, that, seniors, and he just kicked their butts.”
Parrots are scary-smart birds. I find this story absolutely hilarious.
Live Science reports:
This parrot beat 21 Harvard students in a classic memory game
African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) can live more than 50 years, memorize dozens of words in English and, if given the chance, outsmart a flock of Harvard students in a classic Shell Game.
Well, one grey parrot can, anyway. His name is Griffin, and he is the subject of a recent study published May 6 in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers challenged Griffin to a working memory task where he had to locate a colorful pom-pom hidden under a plastic cup after it was shuffled around a table several times (aka, the Shell Game). Meanwhile, 21 Harvard students were given the same task — and Griffin matched or outperformed them in 12 of 14 trials.
“Think about it: Grey parrot outperforms Harvard undergrads. That’s pretty freaking awesome,” lead study author Hrag Pailian, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, told The Harvard Gazette. “We had students concentrating in engineering, pre-meds, this, that, seniors, and he just kicked their butts.”
To be fair, Griffin is not your average parrot. According to the study authors, the 22-year-old bird “has been the subject of cognitive and communicative studies … since his acquisition from a breeder at 7.5 weeks of age.”
Griffin’s handler and bird-mom, Irene Pepperberg — a Harvard psychologist and co-author of the new paper — previously taught the parrot to reproduce some 30 English words and to comprehend at least 40, including the names of colors. As such, Griffin didn’t need any special coaching to learn the Shell Game — Pepperberg merely demonstrated a few sample rounds for him, just as she did for Griffin’s human competitors.
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