Animal Cognition
During the last 15 years, scientists have been using Piaget’s theories of learning and development has been used to study the development of non-primates, avian, and also mammalians. These studies have found indications that there is a close similarity between ape and human sensory-motor development and there are also indications that great-ape intelligence develops beyond this point and chimpanzees display basic elements of symbolic representation. However, methodological flaws and conceptual ambiguities prevent from any firm conclusions of the cognitive capacities of some species that are studies. Animals that have been known to yield reliable data are cats, dogs, and wolves.
Citation: Psychology of animal cognition: Piagetian studies.
Doré, François Y.;Dumas, Claude
Psychological Bulletin, Vol 102(2), Sep 1987, 219-233. Video about Irene Pepperberg, an animal cognition scientist. In the video she explains the process of studying animal cognition by studying a parrot. It took a long time to get a research grant because many people thought that studying a parrot would be a waste of time since their brains are the size of a walnut. A research grant was finally accepted and the video goes on to explain what it was like to study Alex the parrot. Not only could the parrot talk, but he could also distinguish objects from each other by color and size, count to 8, and also do simple math. Dr. Pepperberg concluded that Alex knew over 100 words. Below is a picture of Alex the parrot, who became extremely famous during his life. People even created memorial and foundations websites for him after his death. Here is a link to a website created for Dr. Pepperberg to attempt to raise money so that she can continue to study birds like she studied Alex. It’s an interesting website because it not only has information about Alex, but it has information about other birds that Dr. Pepperberg has studied, along with much of the research she has done.


Animal Cognition focuses on the mental capacity of non-human animals. The research of the study is obviously rather slim. Research is difficult because animals are unable to communicate vocally with humans to tell how they feel or think. Some animals like monkeys and dolphins have more cognitive self-awareness then animals like rats and pigeons. Animals like monkeys and dolphins are then the animals most used for cognition research.


Researchers Lucy Cheke and Nicola Clayton from Cambridge University did research on Eurasian Blue Jays. The Jays were given the option of raisins and peanuts, as well as two different trays to put the food on. The birds anticipated what they wanted later and placed the food on a tray that they would be able to access at a later time. They would do this even if they did not want the food at that time. The Jays anticipated what food they would want later even if they didn’t want it right at that moment. This shows that the birds could plan what they would need later and that they could consciously choose what they wanted to do.

Irene Pepperberg was a Harvard University graduate in 1977. She bought an African gray parrot named Alex. She wanted to see if Alex would communicate with her by teaching Alex how to speek. Pepperberg taught Alex different words to the point that Alex could even respond. Alex was hungry and told Pepperberg that he wanted a grape. Alex was able to communicate his hunger with Irene, and even tell Irene that he was hungry. Alex knew other words for food, like what a banana is and what cherries are. Alex was presented an apple and was unsure what it was. He thought it tasted like a banana and that it looked like a cherry, so he called it a "banerry". This was Alex's association between fruits that he already knew in order to make a word that made sense to him.

National Geographic Animal Minds. (n.d.). Retrieved January 2, 2012, from

Nature Animal Cognition. (n.d.). Retrieved January 2, 2012, from

Science Daily New Research. (n.d.). Retrieved January 2, 2012, from