Kspeare's Reviews > Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin
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Feb 26, 10

bookshelves: animals, learning-styles, psychology

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, she is going to prove it come hell or high water. One fairly benign example is that she seems to be under the impression that only autistic humans think in pictures. Of course, many humans who aren't autistic but are visually oriented think in pictures at least as much as in words, and in many cases more so.

More worrisome is her hypothesis that animals are mentally ill in direct proportion to the amount of white skin they have. She contends that paint horses are crazier than solid-colored ones, and the more white they have, the crazier they are. As anyone who has worked with very many examples of both knows, paints on average tend to be mellower than many other breeds which are solid-colored, and the amount of white skin has nothing to do with it. The most reactive paint I ever worked with had only a small splash of white on his belly and white stockings, while one of the most levelheaded ones was an overo with only a minimal amount of color other than white. This kind of pants-seat hypothesizing worries me, because readers who don't know better may take it as gospel.

So this book it worth reading, IMO, but if something in it sounds off to you, check it out with a knowledgeable friend.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Kirsten I'm not that far into the book, but in the first chapter I felt that she makes it fairly clear that while she believes autistic individuals are very visual thinkers, she doesn't seem to think that all other humans are verbal thinkers -- she talks about visual thinkers in general quite a bit in the first chapter, not just about autistic visual thinkers. I can see what you mean about her attachment to her hypotheses, though; she tends toward stating things as fact and does not temper her opinions very much. I find that directness refreshing at times, but one gets the impression it would be VERY hard to try to change her mind about anything. :)

message 2: by Marzie (new)

Marzie An interesting analysis of the book, K.

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