Griffin the Harvard Student

By Brayden Yin

The one who beat Harvard undergraduates in the shell game was… A PARROT!

Griffin is an African Grey parrot. He works with Dr. Irene Pepperberg. Griffin’s cognitive skills are similar to that of humans. He was challenged to the shell game by 21 Harvard undergraduates and 21 6-8 year olds. 

The Harvard team was led by Hrag Pailian, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The shell game is played by putting an object under one of three or more cups, then sliding the cups around. The player is required to identify where the object is. Griffin outperformed the Harvard students in 12 of the 14 tests. The only reason that Griffin lost to the Harvard students was because in the final two tests, there were more cups and more shifting the cups around. However, Griffin always won against the children.

"Think about it: Grey parrot outperforms Harvard undergrads. That's pretty awesome," said Pailan. Griffin was chosen for the test because the team needed to have an animal that was different in evolution from humans, but still had good cognitive ability. 

Calling someone a “bird brain” is an insult, but some scientists think it should be a compliment. A study with Griffin the parrot shows that birds might have better memories than humans.


Dolasia, M. (2020, July 9). Griffin, An African Grey Parrot, Outsmarts Harvard Students In Memory Game. Retrieved 2020, July 21, from https://www.dogonews.com/2020/7/9/griffin-an-african-grey-parrot-outsmarts-harvard-students-in-memory-game

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