Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

W. W. Norton & Company
13
Free sample

A New York Times bestseller: "A passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds." —Alison Gopnik, The Atlantic

Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition—in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos—to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal—and human—intelligence.

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About the author

Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, 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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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Apr 25, 2016
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780393246193
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Animals / General
Psychology / Cognitive Neuroscience & Cognitive Neuropsychology
Science / Life Sciences / Zoology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Discussion of the precise nature and position of boundaries between dis ciplines is nearly always counterproductive; the need is usually to cross them not to emphasize them. And any such discussion of the distinction between ethology and comparative psychology would today seem patently absurd. While there may be differences in outlook, no boundaries exist. But when Frank Beach started in research, that was not the case. Comparative psychology flourished in the United States whereas ethology was unknown. Beach started as a comparative psychologist and has always called himself either that or a behavioral endocrinologist. Yet, among the com parative psychologists of his generation, he has had closer links with the initially European ethologists than almost any other. He was indeed one of the editors of the first volume of Behaviour. That this should have been so is not surprising once one knows that his Ph. D. thesis concerned "The Neural Basis for Innate Behavior," that he used to sleep in the laboratory so that he could watch mother rats giving birth, and that in 1935 he was using model young to analyze maternal behavior. Furthermore, for nine years he worked in the American Museum of Natural History-in a department first named Experimental Biology and later, when Beach had saved it from extinction and become its chairman, the Department of Animal Behavior. It was in 1938, during Frank's time at the American Museum, that he was first introduced to Niko Tinbergen by Ernst Mayr.
New York Times Bestseller

Primatologist Frans de Waal explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions.

Frans de Waal has spent four decades at the forefront of animal research. Following up on the best-selling Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, which investigated animal intelligence, Mama’s Last Hug delivers a fascinating exploration of the rich emotional lives of animals.

Mama’s Last Hug begins with the death of Mama, a chimpanzee matriarch who formed a deep bond with biologist Jan van Hooff. When Mama was dying, van Hooff took the unusual step of visiting her in her night cage for a last hug. Their goodbyes were filmed and went viral. Millions of people were deeply moved by the way Mama embraced the professor, welcoming him with a big smile while reassuring him by patting his neck, in a gesture often considered typically human but that is in fact common to all primates. This story and others like it form the core of de Waal’s argument, showing that humans are not the only species with the capacity for love, hate, fear, shame, guilt, joy, disgust, and empathy.

De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama’s life and death. The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we don’t have a single organ that other animals don’t have, and the same is true for our emotions. Mama’s Last Hug opens our hearts and minds to the many ways in which humans and other animals are connected, transforming how we view the living world around us.

In this thought-provoking book, the acclaimed author of Our Inner Ape examines how empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans.

Are we our brothers' keepers? Do we have an instinct for compassion? Or are we, as is often assumed, only on earth to serve our own survival and interests?

By studying social behaviors in animals, such as bonding, the herd instinct, the forming of trusting alliances, expressions of consolation, and conflict resolution, Frans de Waal demonstrates that animals–and humans–are "preprogrammed to reach out." He has found that chimpanzees care for mates that are wounded by leopards, elephants offer "reassuring rumbles" to youngsters in distress, and dolphins support sick companions near the water's surface to prevent them from drowning. From day one humans have innate sensitivities to faces, bodies, and voices; we've been designed to feel for one another.

De Waal's theory runs counter to the assumption that humans are inherently selfish, which can be seen in the fields of politics, law, and finance. But he cites the public's outrage at the U.S. government's lack of empathy in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a significant shift in perspective–one that helped Barack Obama become elected and ushered in what may well become an Age of Empathy. Through a better understanding of empathy's survival value in evolution, de Waal suggests, we can work together toward a more just society based on a more generous and accurate view of human nature.

Written in layman's prose with a wealth of anecdotes, wry humor, and incisive intelligence, The Age of Empathy is essential reading for our embattled times.

"An important and timely message about the biological roots of human kindness."
—Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape
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