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Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Summary and Reviews

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

by Frans de Waal

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal X
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
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Book Summary

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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. 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." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. This insightful and fascinating work by a scientist who has been at the forefront of new thinking about primates and what it means to be human is highly recommended. De Waal fans and general readers interested in the field of animal cognition will be delighted." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. After this edifying book, a trip to the zoo may never be the same." - Kirkus

"So, are we 'smart enough to know how smart animals are?' The question will occur to you many times as you read Frans de Waal's remarkable distillations of science in this astonishingly broad-spectrum book. I guarantee one thing: readers come away a lot smarter. As this book shows, we are here on Planet Earth with plenty of intelligent company." - Carl Safina

"Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? will completely change your perceptions of the abilities of animals. This book takes the reader on a fascinating journey of discovery into the world of animal problem-solving." - Temple Grandin

"Frans de Waal's groundbreaking research has long challenged scientists, philosophers, and theologians to rethink the place of humans in the natural world, showing that we aren't the only species with strategic 'political' behavior, elements of empathy, a sense of justice, and high intelligence. Here he covers not only primates, but a much wider range of species, showing his unique ability to translate the latest findings into sparkling, accessible, provocative books for the thinking public." - Robert Sapolsky

"Engaging and provocative…de Waal illuminates the latest ideas and thinking about animal minds and emotions... He challenges us to accept the ultimate findings of this research: Our mental skills are the product of evolution, and all animals from spiders to octopuses to ravens and apes are thinkers in their own ways." - Virginia Morell

"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

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