Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

A New York Times Bestseller

From world-renowned biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal, a groundbreaking work on animal intelligence destined to become a classic.

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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Details Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Title Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
AuthorFrans de Waal
Release Date25th Apr 2016
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Pages352 pages

4 reviews on “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

  1. David Wineberg

    There is (yet another) fight raging in science. This one is over how we evaluate other vertebrates. In this fascinating and eye-opening compendium, Frans de Waal says we are prejudiced towards ourselves, always comparing animals’ performance to ours, in unfairly biased experiments designed for us. It bothers people that we are not unique, and it bothers de Waal that animals don’t get the credit they deserve. Ranging all over the world and all over species, the book is an endless Waal gives the example of a chimp named Ayumu at a research center in Japan, who can routinely memorize nine numbers in any given order, having seen them for just one fifth of one second. He can then pick them out in order from random numbers presented to him all over the computer screen. No human comes close. That’s a problem for a lot of scientists. The book is full of examples of animals, birds and fish doing highly intelligent things naturally. Our tests twist and pervert their skills to fit…

  2. C M Anderson

    Mr. De Waal uses a lot of quotes and also tries to get us to understand Ethology before he goes in deep with his wonderful and insightful stories about how cognitive animals truly are. One quote is from a German physicist, Werner Heisenberg: “What we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”Mr. De Waal said that animals often know only what they need to know (which sounds a lot like our jobs). And I love this one from Konrad Lorenz: “I believe that one could not investigate animals effectively without an intuitive understanding grounded in love and respect.” De Waal states that the challenge is to find tests that fit an animal’s temperament, interests, anatomy, and sensory capabilities. Faced with negative outcomes, we need to pay close attention to differences in motivation and attention. I, myself, can understand his point with my ADHD, I, as a human, face the same dilemmas. I get what he means.The points that really interest me is what Mr. De Waa…

  3. Lupine Smile

    W. W. Norton & Company and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, in exchange for an honest review.This is a fascinating look at how scientists allow their own biases to get in the way of truly evaluating the cognitive abilities of animals. Too often, instead of designing a series of challenges geared toward the abilities of the test subjects, scientists are trying to force the animals to conform to human testing. Frans de Waal, a well respected biologist and primatologist, has written Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? to challenge the current thought and to disprove the theory that humans are smarter. As the author explains, an elephant knows how to use tools, but the trick is to give them the right one for success.There are two major schools of thought, in regards to the study of animal behavior. Ethology is the biological study of animal behavior in a natural setting, so ethologists believe that you n…

  4. Book Shark

    Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? By Frans de Waal“Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” is an insightful look at animal intelligence backed up by evidence from controlled experiments. Dutch/American biologist with a Ph.D. in zoology and ethology and author of Our Inner Ape and others, Frans de Waal, takes the reader on a journey of the sophistication of nonhuman minds. This entertaining 352-page book includes the following nine chapters: 1. Magic Wells, 2. A Tale of Two Schools, 3. Cognitive Ripples, 4. Talk to Me, 5. The Measure of all Things, 6. Social Skills, 7. Time Will Tell, 8. Of Mirrors and Jars, and 9. Evolutionary Cognition.Positives:1. Engaging and well-written book that is accessible to the masses.2. A fascinating topic in the hands of a subject matter expert, nonhuman cognition.3. Entertaining and insightful. The book is easy to follow. Professor de Waal is fair and even handed. He is careful to not oversell nonhuman cognition while prov…

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