Reviews for Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

by Frans de Waal

Publishers Weekly
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In this thoroughly engaging, remarkably informative, and deeply insightful book, de Waal (The Bonobo and the Atheist), a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, investigates the intelligences of various animals and the ways that scientists have attempted to understand them. The book succeeds on many levels. De Waal provides ample documentation that animals-including the primates he studies, other mammals, octopuses, birds, and even insects-can be remarkably adept at solving problems. He also explains scientists' experimental protocols, discussing how bias can creep into experiments and lead to erroneous conclusions. Reiterating Charles Darwin's "well-known observation that the mental difference between humans and other animals is one of degree rather than kind," de Waal augments the scientific perspective with a historical one, carefully considering the debates that have roiled the field of animal behavior science for over a century. He describes how chimps collaborate to evade electrified wire and how bonobos occasionally carry tools in anticipation of needing them in the future, telling fabulous stories that shed light on the differences and similarities between humans and other animals. 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. Illus. (May) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal
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Author of many -influential books on primate social behavior and intelligence, de Waal (psychology, Emory Univ.; director, Living Links Ctr., Yerkes National Primate Research Ctr., Atlanta; The Age of Empathy) here takes a critical look at the history of his own field, now called "evolutionary cognition." Combining the best research practices from two opposing scientific disciplines-ethology and comparative psychology-he seeks to understand animals on their terms rather than ours. Easier said than done, however. As de Waal points out, devising species-appropriate intelligence tests requires a great deal of smarts on our part. But it seems that the better we get at testing animals, the more knowledgeable they appear to be. Drawing upon personal experiences, anecdotes, and research findings from a broad range of animal cognition studies, de Waal brilliantly addresses the enormous amount of skepticism and criticism that has plagued this discipline. VERDICT 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.--Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. -Historical Soc., -Flemington, NJ Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.