Inside her Harvard laboratory, animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg introduces me to Athena, a 3-year-old African gray parrot. Athena decides she’s more interested in Pepperberg’s fingers and clamps a powerful beak around a fingertip. “Gentle!” Pepperberg admonishes. “Tickle,” the bird pipes up. “Tickle, yeah,” Pepperberg counters. “That was some cute little tickle.” Athena redeems herself when Pepperberg quizzes her on the color of a plastic cup. “Ya-yow,” Athena rasps out her version of yellow.