So, how do scientists prove that an animal is thinking? How do they know that they are showing what an animal can do, and not merely doing what humans do so well: projecting our feelings and thoughts onto something or someone else? All scientists engaged in animal cognition studies worry about this, whether they're studying insects, dogs, or dolphins. Our human nature wants to empathize, so much so that we give feelings to our cars and computers. And we ache inside for the poor, lone honeybee we've just used in a cognitive test and must now killto protect the integrity of our researchby humanely placing in a freezer. Can we disentangle our thoughts from such emotions and still find a way to look inside another being's mind? Can we really understand the minds of the other animals?
People think about this questionperhaps more often than we let on. Just the other day, my husband and I were out hiking with our collie, Buck. A woman walking a Chihuahua approached from the opposite direction. In spite of the difference in their sizes, our two dogs decided they wanted to meet. They were somewhat wary at first, giving each other sideways glances. Then Buck started slowly wagging his tail, as did the Chihuahua. Watching the two, the Chihuahua's owner asked, "I wonder what they're thinking?"
It's a question many of us have surely asked, and it's the question that drives the scientists in these pages. With new ideas and techniques, they're finally fully exploring what was once one of the most forbidden realms on earth: the animal mind.
Excerpted from Animal Wise by Virginia Morell. Copyright © 2013 by Virginia Morell. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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