Animals in Translation
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Animals in Translation

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  5,819 ratings  ·  867 reviews
How is Animals in Translation different from every other animal book ever published?Animals in Translation is like no other animal book because of Temple Grandin. As an animal scientist and a person with autism, her professional training and personal history have created a perspective like no other thinker in the field, and this is her exciting, groundbreaking view of the...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published 2005 by Scribner (first published 2001)
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Came for the autism, stayed for the Labradors. Background: Temple Grandin is an animal behavior specialist. She's single-handedly revolutionized the humane treatment of slaughter animals in the United States. She's also a vital force in the neurodiversity movement. This book argues broadly that animal cognition shares some key features with autistic cognition – picture-thinking, working memory shortages, detail-fixation, etc. It also takes a fascinating tour through what we know about animal emo...more
This book truly is a must-read for any pet owner, and I highly recommend it to anyone who just loves animals. Temple Grandin offers fascinating insights to the animal world, which will confirm things long time pet owners always knew, and bring to light startling new information.

One main thing this book brings to light is to not underestimate animals or those with autism because often times they're smarter than us. Yet, that's one thing Grandin tries to avoid, saying things like animals are smart...more
I liked this book more than I expected. For a long time, I'd been reluctant to pick it up because I thought the premise was more or less, "I'm autistic so I'm halfway between 'normal' people and animals (every other species)." I'm sure I don't need to explain why that's offensive.

Instead, Dr. Grandin uses brain research, coupled with her experience as an autistic person, to try to explain how members of other species may experience the world.

If you can disregard the sweeping generalizations abou...more
I had serious problems with the way this book is written. Though Grandin's plainspoken writing style is refreshing, I often felt like she was oversimplifying very complex ideas in order to appeal to a scientifically illiterate audience (or worse, to make her arguments more convincing). Statements such as "Autism is a kind of way station on the road from animals to humans" aren't just over-dramatic (and ultimately nonsensical), they're also potentially offensive. Much of the book is purely specul...more
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it's almost worth the purchase price for the explanation of the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment, a distinction that escapes far too many pet owners, not to mention parents. And there is a ton of useful information in it for people who are learning about how animals think.

However, there are a few spots in it that give me cause for pause. Grandin has some unique ways of looking at things, and once she has a hypothesis...more
This was a GREAT book for anyone who wants to learn about the way animals process information - and as a bonus, you learn about how humans do as well. I love that the author puts things in terms a lay person can understand, and I love that she is honest and humble. Grandin writes matter-of-factly about her own disability, and how it has enabled her to identify with the minds of animals in certain ways. I came away with a deeper understanding of how to interact with my horses and dogs, and found...more
Aug 12, 2007 Lauren rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: animal lovers, science geeks
This book is so awesome, everyone should read it. Grandin talks about the ways that her autism gives her insight into animal behavior, while weaving in discussions of genetics, breeding practices, and stories about animals. She talks about horses, cows, cats, dogs, and chickens, really there's something for everyone. Grandin is responsible for the redesign of slaughterhouses to be a lot more humane (she talks about some of the contradictions in ethics this entails, but overall, it seems like a v...more
Cheryl in CC NV
I do love Grandin's work, both in the ideas in and writing style of her books, and in the fact that she makes me feel less guilty for being a carnivore because she's done so much work for feedlots and slaughterhouses.

This book really is a must read. I love the structure of each argument, in particular. Now, bear in mind that I was too engrossed in reading to take notes, so my example may not be exactly accurate, but it could go something like this:

First, she'd say something axiomatic, like, we...more
I have mixed feelings about this book, and I haven't finished it, so I'm not sure if it's fair to write a review yet. But one thing keeps annoying me throughout the text: her constant use of the term "animals" when she really means "mammals" or specifically livestock. She makes generalizations such as "animals are visual creatures" which is certainly not true for the majority of animal species. She's specifically talking about livestock and hoofstock, but she's not using the specific term. On pa...more
Considering one of my favourite subjects is animal behaviour, I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.

Grandin is an autistic woman with a Ph.D. in Animal Science, so I thought this book might have a somewhat scientific bent to it. Instead, it is written in a conversational tone, poor grammar and all. That aside, it has some other major problems: Namely, despite the book being about the similarities in behaviour between animals and autistic...more
I liked this book and found many of the author's insights fascinating. It is interesting in reading reviews that many people gave it five stars but an almost equal number gave it a one star. I think there was one reviewer that said she'd have given it less than the one if that option was available. My main complaint with the book was that there were too many (though captivating) details and not enough generalizations. But, that is what makes this book interesting. Temple Grandin admits that this...more
I have a number of conflicts with this book – which should in no way diminish the remarkable body of observations made by Dr Grandlin. It is generally accepted as cold hard fact that animals don’t think like humans. Until such time as there is scientifically verifiable information and understanding, we, as scientists, don’t know how humans *or* animals think. With ongoing study using functional MRI (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning we are learning more about the workings of...more
Temple Grandin is autistic, and has applied her experiences as an autistic woman to her work with animals. This book is sprinkled with information from all aspects of her work, including anecdotes of working within the food industry and why animals that are photographed in the wild are almost all marked with a white patch (no joke). It's a bit of a hard slog at times, and if you are at all at odds with the slaughter industry, you may feel that she is acting as an apologist and might become angry...more
A unique and fascinating book. Grandin makes a thesis that autistic people have a lot in common with animals in their way of processing information, thinking and experiencing pain and emotions. Well developed frontal lobes are characteristic of a normal human brain. They are also responsible for a global and coherent image of the world, and a generalized way of thinking. The outcome of healthy frontal lobes is more verbal expression and controlled behaviour (e.g. people have much more control ov...more

Ummm. So I liked this, then about halfway through it became one of those books I just wanted to be over. So, there's that. Also I generally have objections to the dominant "pack leader" theory of dog training / rearing. Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, to me, provides a much more compelling model for thinking about dog behavior. If dogs are able to differentiate between other dogs and humans, as Grandin says that they are, why would they ta...more
Clif Hostetler
The word "animals" is in the title, but the reader learns a lot about human behavior from this book. The author writes from her own personal perspective of being autistic.

I learned from the book that the frontal lobe's ability to screen through all the incoming sensory data to the human brain to quickly form broad generalizations is what we understand to be normal human consciousness. The more limited functioning of animal frontal lobes allows them more direct access to the raw data from lower...more
I was actually really disappointed in this book. It seemed like just a collection of anecdotes. There was some science to back up her hypotheses but there wasn't that much. I was hoping for some better insights.
She also makes some crazy generalizations. For example the paint horse that was crazy and had whole body twitches every 30 seconds or so. She said it was Tourrett's like and was probably because he had a lot of white coloration. She never explored that maybe he received a physical head in...more
Joy H.
Added 1/27/09

2/25/14 - I plan to get this book soon as an audio book from
A short audio sample can be heard here:

A GR reviewer (Clif) wrote "The word 'animals' is in the title, but the reader learns a lot about human behavior from this book."

Update 3/24/14 - I borrowed the CD version of this audiobook from my public library. It's excellent.

Update 3/30/14 - I finished listening to this audio book. IMO, it's a "must" for people interested in anim...more
I first became aware of Temple Grandin and her work through Monty Roberts; when I took his Join-up workshop, Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism was required reading.

Grandin uses her unique ability as an autistic woman to see things from the perspective of animals. Her humor and knowledge shine through on the page as she talks about how animals learn and what motivates them. Not only does Grandin employ documentable science (the book contains numerous pages of endnotes), but she also shar...more
Aug 25, 2011 Wj is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with People magazine's praise: it's "Full of heart, soul, and crackling intelligence".

I'm loving every sentence of it...
There were so many interesting and enlightening points in this book, I’ve found myself quoting parts of it to various people I know, like the parrot Alex who surprised everyone by spelling the word nut for a treat or why cattle don’t cross cattle guards on roadways, because they see the depth between the lines. I didn’t know that autistic people see the world in fragments, but after Grandin explained it, lots of things make sense, like an autistic person not being able to look directly at you an...more
“Animals in Translation” is premised on two concepts: autistic people are like animals insofar as both have less dominant frontal lobes than normal humans; and that while most of the book consists of Grandin's educated guesses, her autism makes her guesses different because she often “happens to be right.” That is, her insights are corroborated if not proven by observable results. Her emphasis on the adaptive abilities of animals, their capacity to learn and teach cultures, their different-but-n...more
It is interesting to see, that, from an individual who lacks the capacity to think abstractly, that "people become more radical when they are thinking abstractly. They get bogged down in permanent bickering where they've lost touch with what's happening in the real world." This is a crucial distinction between an autistic perspective and a neurotypical perspective of the world. Perhaps, the autistic individual lacks the ability to utilize the questionably adaptive defense mechanism known of as d...more
Where do I start? This book was delightful. I so enjoyed this look into Temple Grandin's life and her life's work. Though I don't think Grandin would ever describe life with Autism as easy, she's certainly not going to sit around and pity herself either. Grandin was key to her own autism therapy at a very young age, designing a "squeeze" apparatus modeled after a machine she saw on her aunt's cow farm that was designed to gently squeeze the cattle as a means of calming them. Grandin had rather i...more
Tara Hall
I usually don’t read non-fiction books, books about autism…or books about animals, though I love animals. Usually animal books have passages with very upsetting parts, and the happy ending, if there is one, is ruined for me by these “bad spots.” But as my husband gave this book to me, I was guilted into reading it, thought I was able to put it off for 8 years. To my surprise, I enjoyed this book very much.

Among its provocative ideas, the book:
• argues that language is not a requirement for consc...more
This was one of the Branigan BookClub selections for April 2008. The other was Sara Gruen's mesmerizing WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.

For the purists out there, yes I know that it is gramatically incor-rect, but I'll write it anyways. ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION is one of the most enjoyable and fascinating books that I have read in many years.

A felicitous constellation of characteristics combine to make this so.
First, the subject matter; here the subtitle says it all--'using the mysteries of autism to decode...more
I totally loved this book, and found it almost impossible to prevent myself from reading sections out loud to my husband or anyone else who would listen. There are many fascinating anecdotes about both animals and autism, and for the most part the notes and bibliography allow one to follow up on some of the more striking stories.

Temple Grandin believes (and I admit, I also hold this believe pretty strongly) that animals must be met on their own terms -- it's not fair to treat animals like humans...more
Frederic Pierce
Mind blowing. Temple Grandin comes at everything from such a different place that you can't help but look at the world from a different perspective once you start reading it. There was something on nearly every single page (Except for the weird final part, where she summarized things in outline form. I could've done without that) she shared a story or an insight or a study that left my jaw hanging open. A parrot who actually taught himself to spell. Dogs who somehow detect seizures in people bef...more
Jul 08, 2011 Diane rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brittany
Recommended to Diane by: Peggy
I very much enjoyed this book. I like Grandin's blunt straightforward style and greatly appreciate her basic respect for science mixed with a healthy questioning of science methods and conclusions. I particularly liked her use of lots and lots of examples - she does get carried away sometimes and gets off the point but the examples are always interesting and she always comes back to the point.

Grandin tries to explain how animals and humans are alike and how they are different and how we can bet...more
I was fortunate to see Ms. Grandin in 1984 when I was in College and studying Special Education. She was showcased on a Segment of "Oprah" on a show about "Idiot Savants" I remember as vividly now, how angry I was then, that they referred to any of the People, whom I felt they were exploiting for the financial gain of the Psychologist who had been studying them since their childhood. Still, I was doing my Undergraduate Thesis on Autism and while biting my lip a few times, watched in fascination...more
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All About Animals: Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin 13 23 Oct 30, 2013 06:17AM  
brain cognition language in animals 3 27 Jan 09, 2013 05:53PM  
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Temple Grandin, Ph.D., didn't talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She tells her story of "groping her way from the far side of darkness" in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because,...more
More about Temple Grandin...
Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's Emergence: Labeled Autistic

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“We do know, however that almost no animal routinely kills prey animal on an indiscriminate basis.
The only wild animal I’ve seen who will sometimes violate this rule is the coyote. Most of the time a coyote eats the animals he kills, but occasionally coyotes will go on a lamb-killing spree, killing twenty and eating only one. I believe it’s possible coyotes have lost some of their economy of behavior by living in close proximity to humans and overabundant food supplies. A coyote that kills twenty lambs and eats only one isn’t going to have to trek a hundred miles to find more lambs next week. Any sheep rancher will have several hundred other lambs that will be just as easy to catch later on, and the coyote knows it. Wild coyotes have probably lost the knowledge that you shouldn't waste food or energy.”
“We do know, however that almost no animal routinely kills prey animal on an indiscriminate basis.
The only wild animal I’ve seen who will sometimes violate this rule is the coyote. Most of the time a coyote eats the animals he kills, but occasionally coyotes will go on a lamb-killing spree, killing twenty and eating only one. I believe it’s possible coyotes have lost some of their economy of behavior by living in close proximity to humans and overabundant food supplies. A coyote that kills twenty lambs and eats only one isn’t going to have to trek a hundred miles to find more lambs next week. Any sheep rancher will have several hundred other lambs that will be just as easy to catch later on, and the coyote knows it. Wild coyotes have probably lost the knowledge taht you shouldn't waste food or energy.”
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