Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

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9780393246186: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
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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.

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Review:

This is a remarkable book by a remarkable scientist. Drawing on a growing body of research including his own, de Waal shows that animals, from elephants and chimpanzees to the lowly invertebrates, are not only smarter than we thought, but also engaged in forms of thought we have only begun to understand.--Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

A passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.--Alison Gopnik

Astonishing...has the makings of a classic--and one fantastic read.

Walks us through research revealing what a ride range of animal species are actually capable of....it all deals a pretty fierce wallop to our sense of specialness.--Jon Mooallem

A thoughtful and easy read, packed with information stemming from detailed empirical research, and one of de Waal's most comparative works that goes well beyond the world of nonhuman primates with whom he's most familiar.--Marc Bekoff

Engaging and informative.

A beautifully written and delightfully conceived popular science book, written by an eminent researcher who has dedicated his career to making the general public aware of just how smart animals are.--Nicola Clayton

A fascinating history of the study of animal behavior and cognition.

A good book. Read it instead of watching TV or playing video games. The whole world will be better as a result.--Maria Rodale

An entertaining, convincing case for assessing each species's intelligence on its own terms....not only full of information and thought-provoking, it's also a lot of fun to read.--Nancy Szokan

About the Author:

Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People. The author of Our Inner Ape, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University's Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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