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  1. Alex & Me begins with coverage of the international outpouring of grief and sympathy at the death of Alex the parrot in 2007. Had you heard of Alex before you picked up the book, or seen any video coverage of him on TV or the internet?
  2. When Dr. Pepperberg began her work in the 1970s, she was one of several researchers studying animal intelligence and language, including direct human-animal communication. What other studies are you familiar with?
  3. Pepperberg adopted a model/rival technique in her study of Alex. How did it differ from methods traditionally used in studies of animal cognition and communication, and why did she choose it? Why was it controversial, and how did it affect the way her work was received? Has opinion about her methods and conclusions changed over the years?
  4. Alex's brain was “the size of a shelled walnut,” yet Pepperberg compares his comprehension and language use to those of a human toddler. What surprised you most about his achievements?
  5. In writing about Alex after his death, Pepperberg talks not just about intelligence but also about emotion—her own bond with Alex, and his strong “personality.” Why do you think that she didn't do so until after his death? How do you reconcile her obvious fondness for Alex with her experimental study of him?
  6. Cultural attitudes toward animals have varied tremendously over the centuries and around the world. What do you think that says about humanity? If Pepperberg's research helps demonstrate a greater level of intelligence and consciousness in animals than has previously been assumed, what consequences does that have for our society's treatment of animals?
  7. How have your own experiences influenced your beliefs about animal intelligence, consciousness, “personality,” emotions, communication? Has reading about Alex changed your opinions?
  8. Dr. Pepperberg faced struggles as a woman scientist. What did you think of her personal story? How was the reception of her work influenced by the fact that she was a woman researcher in a time when almost all scientists were men?
  9. Pepperberg's model/rival technique has been mentioned as a possible method to help autistic children acquire language. How do you think her studies contribute to our understanding of human communication and intelligence?
  10. What's your favorite Alex story from the book?
Alex & Me