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This book gives a variety of examples where science has shown different examples of animals acting smart, being self-aware, and in ways we can relate to them.
I like the authors proposition that we should not discount the ability of all of life to exhibit intelligence, most of which is related to their requirements to survive.
As far as consciousness, or being self aware, these are general terms and pretty much subjective even within our species. The author explains this very well, a book well worth the time.
33 of 34 people found this review helpful
This book tells us that animals have cognition. When you interact with your pet dog, it isn’t just an automaton responding reflexively to Pavlovian stimuli, it actually has awareness. It thinks. It has cognition.
Were you ever in any doubt about this? I wasn’t. It’s the most obvious fact in the world that pets have consciousness and awareness. They have ‘minds’ just like we do (if there is such a thing!). This book argues this fact as if an army of behaviourist scientists are disputing it, which I suppose they must be, but to me it’s pretty obvious and so the basic message of this book isn’t an astounding life-changer.
But the book does add a lot of breadth and depth to this basic premise. For one thing, it challenges the notion that human cognition is essentially different (and superior) to all other animal cognition. He provides lots of examples of primate cognition which are very hard to separate from the way we think, such as planning for the future and understanding the motivations of other members of a social group. He makes the case that animal cognition has been underestimated by behaviourists because they tend to study animals in laboratories. Laboratories are unnatural environments which do not bring the best out of animals. They are much better studied in their natural environments. Many imaginative experiments have been performed in natural environments proving that animals function at a high cognitive level.
And this extends beyond primates to other animals: Elephants, dolphins (who know each other by name), birds and invertebrates, such as the octopus. They’re all shown in this book to be much cleverer than they’ve previously been given credit for, and it is hard to deny that they have consciousness.
It’s an entertaining book that probably won’t change your World View too much (unless you’re a behaviourist), and the take-home message is ‘animals are smarter than you think’.
65 of 69 people found this review helpful
I'm a scientist and I work in the field of behaviour. Because of this I knew much of the material and people mentioned by de waal. However it was still a fantastic journey with great history, current and future research analysis. I would recommend this as required reading before entering the field of animal behaviour to any scientist, and that it is available for anyone to listen to is fantastic. Want to know the bleeding edge of animal behaviour alongside how this shapes our view of the world and ethics then this is the book for you.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This book is interesting, entertaining and at times deeply moving. Fascinating to understand the extent to which what we think of as human abilities and characteristics are present in other animals. It made think a lot about what this indicates about human evolution and evolution in general.