Think animals like humans

Can animals think?

Now "Alex" is dead, but the African gray parrot caused a sensation in science for 30 years. It was 1977 when the young Harvard graduate Irene Pepperberg embarked on a bold project. At that time, animals were more or less regarded as living automatons which, due to their genetic programming, react to stimuli, but neither think nor feel. Pepperberg wanted to talk to them and find out what was going on in their head. When Alex died in September 2007, his accomplishments had revolutionized our idea of ​​what animals can do. But how can a scientist prove that an animal is capable of real thinking?

Special skills are considered to be signs of higher mental processes: a good memory, an understanding of grammar and symbols, an awareness of one's own self, an understanding of the motives of others, imitation and creativity. Often all of this is summarized under the term "cognition", which means thinking in a comprehensive sense. With skilful experiments, scientists gradually demonstrated that not only humans, but also other biological species have such talents. At the same time it became clear how our own abilities once developed. Bush jays know that their fellows are thieves and that stored food can rot; Sheep recognize faces; Chimpanzees poke around termite burrows with adapted tools and even use weapons for hunting; Dolphins imitate the posture of humans; Archer fish learn by observing experienced conspecifics how to shoot insects out of the bushes with a jet of water from their mouth. And the parrot "Alex" amazed as a good speaker.