Looking back, which experiences, jobs and personality traits do you think have really helped you? I was my own a lot as a young child; I think that helped to make me self-reliant.
What other scientific discoveries have you made in your field since you wrote this book? We’ve demonstrated that Grey parrots will engage in reciprocity (that is, be selfish with a selfish partner and somewhat generous with a generous partner), they can reason by exclusion (deduce where a treat is hidden after being shown where it isn’t), that at least one can pass the “marshmallow test”, that they can quickly succeed on tasks involving reversal learning (where the former incorrect answer is now correct), and at least one Grey can identify occluded objects and what are called subjective figures (imagine three pacmen arranged in a triangular pattern…you—and our Grey, Griffin—actually see a triangle, even though it doesn’t really exist).
What’s the hardest part of your job? Raising funds to keep the research going…it takes too much time away from the research itself.
What’s the best part of your job? Finding out new and exciting things about avian cognition…I love to learn new things
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? I was able to meet a huge number of wonderful people across the world whom I probably would not have otherwise met.
What is the most creative interpretation you have seen or heard about your book? Not a single interpretation, but a collection—the students at Lynn Classical High School (in a town near to where I live) read the book over one summer vacation, and their assignment was to interpret it in some way. They held an “author day” for me to visit and see what they had done. The collection of art, poems, short stories, letters, and even music was truly amazing.
Do you have a favourite place? I love to be near the sea shore…that’s why I live where I do.
Are you working with any parrots at the moment? We have Griffin, a 20 yr old Grey, and a new “baby” Grey, Athena, almost 2 yrs old.
Do you collect anything? Sleep-deprivation.
What are you working on next? We are doing a fascinating study on probabilistic learning—can Griffin extrapolate general information from a small sample.
Read my review of ‘Alex & Me’ here.