Deceased parrot had IQ of bushmen?

For those who find it convenient to cling onto beliefs that there's a magical distinction between the consciousness of an animal and that of a human - probably because this makes it easy to ignore the plight to which we subject animals - The Economist presents this obituary of Alex, a parrot, aged 31:
By the end, said Dr Pepperberg, Alex had the intelligence of a five-year-old child and had not reached his full potential. He had a vocabulary of 150 words. He knew the names of 50 objects and could, in addition, describe their colours, shapes and the materials they were made from. He could answer questions about objects' properties, even when he had not seen that particular combination of properties before. He could ask for things—and would reject a proffered item and ask again if it was not what he wanted. He understood, and could discuss, the concepts of “bigger”, “smaller”, “same” and “different”. And he could count up to six, including the number zero (and was grappling with the concept of “seven” when he died). He even knew when and how to apologise if he annoyed Dr Pepperberg or her collaborators.
A human comparison: in Richard Lynn's Race Differences in Intelligence, there is a page about how certain human languages (spoken by human races with the lowest IQs, such as bushmen and the Australian aborigines) can only express numbers with the words "one", "two", "few" and "many". In some of these languages, numbers more than 2 can be expressed by chaining multiple "two" and "one" together, e.g. "two two one" = 5. However, this works only up to about seven, at which point the chain of twos gets too complex for the listeners to understand.

These people have average IQs of about 50-60. That makes one wonder about a possible IQ overlap between the most intellectually challenged types of humans and the average Alex-like parrot.

And it also makes one wonder about lots of other things.


Leo Lucas said…
No language was born with all numbers. They were created by necessity. It's not really a surprise that people that were not presented to the Western numerical system don't do well in IQ tests...

This remind me of a 4-years-old niece of my wife. She couldn't even count to 3, but that was because her parents never taught her to! One day, my wife taught her to count to 10 in less than one hour, with a simple child game.

On the other hand, if you are not a specialized linguist, you'll probably never be able to speak the ǃXóõ language properly, because it's the language with most phonemes, so you would not pass a simple conversation test.

And excuse any mistake. English is not my mother tongue.
denis bider said…
People who think they can refute Richard Lynn's work with spontaneous off-hand arguments are really overestimating themselves and underestimating a person's life work.

You need to read (at least one of) his books.

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