Title

Social context influences the vocalizations of a home-raised African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus)

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-2011

Publication Title

Journal of comparative psychology

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Home-raised African Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) exhibit strong social bonding with their human companions. We examined how 1 parrot's vocal production (speech and nonword sounds) changed with social context with respect to descriptive measures of the vocalizations and their thematic content. We videotaped the parrot in 4 social conditions: subject home alone, subject and owner in the same room, owner in a separate room within hearing range, and owner and experimenter conversing in the same room as the parrot but ignoring her. Linguistic analysis revealed the parrot's repertoire consisted of 278 “units” ranging in length from 1 to 8 words or sounds. Rate of vocalization and vocabulary richness (i.e., the number of different units used) differed significantly, and many vocalizations were context-specific. For example, when her owner was in the room and willing to reciprocate communication, the parrot was more likely to use units that, in English, would be considered solicitations for vocal interaction (e.g., “Cosmo wanna talk”). When she and her owner were in separate rooms, the subject was significantly more likely to use units that referenced her spatial location and that of her owner (e.g., “Where are you”), suggesting she uses specific units as an adaptation of the wild parrot contact call. These results challenge the notion that parrots only imitate speech and raise interesting questions regarding the role of social interaction in learning and communicative competence in an avian species. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Volume

125

Issue

2

pp.

175-184

ISSN

0735-7036