What separates your mind from an animal s? Maybe you think it s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition.Read more...
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What separates your mind from an animal s? Maybe you think it s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we ve underestimated their abilities for too long.
People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different forms that are often incomparable to ours? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal and human intelligence."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-02-01
- Reviewer: Staff
In this thoroughly engaging, remarkably informative, and deeply insightful book, de Waal (The Bonobo and the Atheist), a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, investigates the intelligences of various animals and the ways that scientists have attempted to understand them. The book succeeds on many levels. De Waal provides ample documentation that animals—including the primates he studies, other mammals, octopuses, birds, and even insects—can be remarkably adept at solving problems. He also explains scientists’ experimental protocols, discussing how bias can creep into experiments and lead to erroneous conclusions. Reiterating Charles Darwin’s “well-known observation that the mental difference between humans and other animals is one of degree rather than kind,” de Waal augments the scientific perspective with a historical one, carefully considering the debates that have roiled the field of animal behavior science for over a century. He describes how chimps collaborate to evade electrified wire and how bonobos occasionally carry tools in anticipation of needing them in the future, telling fabulous stories that shed light on the differences and similarities between humans and other animals. Emphasizing the forms of animal “empathy and cooperation” he has long studied, de Waal teaches readers as much about humankind as he does about our nonhuman relatives. Illus. (May)