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Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures
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Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,198 ratings  ·  341 reviews
Did you know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve? Did you know that some dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead, and moths remember living as caterpillars?

Noted science writer Virginia Morell explores the frontiers of research on a
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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I liked this book. I do recommend it to others.

It begins with a brief history of how we have in the past viewed the cognition and emotions of animals, starting with Aristotle, moving ahead to the Stoics, then René Descartes, Voltaire, Darwin, the Behaviorists, Konrad Lorenz, Jane Goodall and showing how Donald Redfield Griffin in the 1970s opened up research into cognitive ethology. Previously, research into how animals think and feel was quite simply not taken seriously. It had only been on th
Oh my gosh! I'm going to get to read this sooner than I'd thought because I just won my FIRST EVER FIRST READS GIVEAWAY!!! HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE! And this is a perfect first winner, too, because if it's here in time for Christmas, I can read it with my niece who is interested in animals and their thoughts and emotions!

Feb 2012: I have finished this book! Thank you, First Reads, for making me a winner!
And now, my thoughts:
I had so much fun reading this. I mean, first off, it's rea
Here is a book everyone should read. It deals with such an important subject, and too many of us are unaware of it. Probably, MOST of us are unaware of it.

Virginia Morell, author of ANIMAL WISE, says that animals have minds. They use their brains as we do, and, like us, they have personalities, moods, and emotions. They laugh and play. Some show grief and empathy.

It is true that most of us pet owners see intelligence and personality in our own animals. But this is more than a proclamation by som
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the book! I liked the way the author wrote about the scientists who were studying the different animals, from ants to dolphins. All of the storys were clearly detailed with background information and literature from other sources. I thought the stories were well done with respect to the research and the people doing the research. There was just enough scientific details to carry the stories along, without getting bogged down into difficult words and terms. I liked that there wer ...more
Sep 28, 2018 marked it as to-read
Rec'd by Fox for an intro to the cognitive ethology field. Cognitive ethology, for those of you who don't know, is a thing that I definitely totally know what it means. ...more
da AL
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
yes, catch and release hurts fish! & of who knew birds were such drama queens? great book for everyone
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Won an Advanced Reader's Copy from Read It Forward.

As one scientist interviewed for this book states -- "I really do not understand this need for us [humans] always to be superior in all domains. Or to be so separate, so unique from every other animal. . . . We are not. . . . we are members of the animal kingdom."

I would guess that most people who would choose to read this book would agree with this sentiment, as I do. Which means that the author's message - that animals are thinking and feelin
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and important, and also carefully written. I'm convinced that I want to be a vegetarian. At the very least, I expect readers of this to come away with an appreciation that more research needs to be done, by scientists with less hubris, less need to feel superior to the rest of the animal kingdom.

It's not a perfect book. Some bits are repeated, and though there are notes, an index, and a bibliography, none serve to guide a reader to the better choices for further reading. Nor is there
John Wood
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book may change the way you look at the animals that we share this planet with. The author tells us about many groundbreaking studies of animal thinking. Contrary to long held beliefs there is more and more evidence that many animals make conscious decisions, have emotions and can create tools to accomplish tasks. The author interviews and watches many scientists working with their test animals in labs and in the wild. Included are studies of ants, fish, birds, rats, elephants, dolphins, ch ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We all tend to seek out things (ideas, movies, books, other people) that reaffirm our own world view paradigm - we watch whichever 24-hour news station matches our left or right-leaning political views, we spend most of our time with friends who share our religious beliefs (or lack thereof), etc.

I say that, recognizing that I may have enjoyed this book so much because it affirms what I already believe about the value of animal life and the atrocious way humans treat so many thinking, feeling cre
Brian Griffith
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals
Morell goes on great adventures, following many of the world's top researchers of animal intelligence through jungles, tropical bays, or university research facilities in many nations. She covers the slowly developing analysis of parakeet twitters, dolphin calls, rat laughter, patterns of dog behavior, and the better-than-human feats of memory by gorillas. In each case she coveys the beauty and mystery of the animals while explaining the complexity of research that is more challenging than decod ...more
Hilary "Fox"
Animal Wise is a book that I have seen referenced in many others that I have read over the years. To my understanding, it is a veritable classic of animal thought and behavior literature. I have been eager to get my hands on it for years, and when I finally did, devoured it in due course. It was well worth the hype. Even with some of the experiments and discoveries heavily referenced in other works there were still plenty of surprises, and Virginia Morell is a delightful writer who seems to be ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
People who live with or love animals know they are intelligent and have emotions, but our stories about the antics of our beloved pets are just anecdotes to scientists and don’t meet the exacting standards of rigorous experiment based proof. While not a scientist herself, science writer Virginia Morell spent many years visiting and interviewing scientists doing research on animal cognition and this book about what she saw and learned is fascinating. It’s also surprisingly moving considering how ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Video review here:

Informative, well-researched and fascinating. The only thing this book is missing is pictures!
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Do animals have mental and emotional lives? People recognize that their pets aren’t mindless machines or mere bundles of reflexes. Darwin agreed, and from experiments and observations concluded that even earthworms showed intelligence. The cognitive revolution that rejected the separation of thought and feeling, as well as behaviorists’ denial of both (even in humans!), has revitalized animal cognition research since the 1990s. This book reports on research that is confirming neuroscientist Rodo ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Doug
First of all, I would like to thank Read It Forward for providing me with an uncorrected proof copy of Animal Wise.

You don’t need a degree in biology to understand this book, but an interest in animals is recommended. I was fascinated by the stories of people doing research into how animals think and behave. The dedication of these researchers is admirable. In the wild or in laboratories, men and women devote huge chunks of their lives to learning more about our fellow creatures. Can you imagine
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't really need a book to tell me that animals think and feel (my cats and dog have no issues communicating with me). Still, it's very interesting to know what's being done to prove the intelligence of animals. The science sometimes is a little too dense and I struggled with those parts, but I mostly learned so many things that are simply amazing! Did you know that ants can teach? Cows and whales have regional accents. Crows use tools. And dogs... it is amazing how we have evolved together, ...more
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The stories in this book made me reflect on how we, as humans, perceive other animals. I have always been convinced that other animals have more complex feelings and thoughts than we realize, and this book has reinforced that belief.

In each chapter, Morell visits a different scientist who is experimenting on the cognition of a particular species. Each of these chapters made me appreciate the complexity of that particular animal's thoughts and emotions more than I had before. This book isn't me
Wolf Ostheeren
Of course, this is popular science- but you always get the names of the scientists and can research the publications that catch your interest. Since I usually read only about mammals, there was a lot of information about invertebrates, fish, and birds that was new to me and I liked the attitude of the whole book which clearly places humans as animals among other animals and sometimes even ridicules our need to be so very special and superior. I listened to the audio book and never lost interest ...more
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, nonfiction, stem
A wonderful, heartfelt yet scientific overview of current research in animal cognition.

However, now that I know that fish actually cognate pain, I think I'm not even going to be a pesca-vegetarian for very much longer!
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, librarything
I'd read a fantastic article on animal intelligence by Virginia Morell a couple of years ago on National Geographic. In fact, I mentioned it in one of my recent reviews. When I entered to receive this book from LibraryThing, I didn't realize it was the same author. So when I finally got it, I was excited to find out that it was.

I absolutely loved this book! It was a great introduction to the field of animal cognition, the study of the mental capacities of animals. Now granted, I'm not a huge ske
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Animal Wise, written by science journalist Virginia Morell, is an engaging book describing current research in animal cognition. The science has come a long way in the past sixty years since Jane Goodall began to study chimpanzees in what is now the Gombe Stream National Park along the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania .

The questions being explored are: “Do other animals think (and, therefore, feel)?” and, if so, “What are they thinking?” These are complicated questions as it is not possibl
Martha Love
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read, dogs, animals
This is perhaps one of the most enjoyable reads on the topic of field work in animal psychology exploring what animals experience in emotions and the meaning of their behavior from an inner reference. It is Morell's stories and encounters with great scientists in the field of animal psychology that really makes this book such a delightful read and helps one digest the material much more completely than some dry psychology textbook.

I took this book with me on a long flight from Honolulu to Rome
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One delight from my current stack of reading is Virginia Morell's _Animal Wise_ in which she tells the stories of ethologists of various sorts working with, respectively, ants, fish, birds, rats, elephants, dolphins, chimpanzees, dogs, and wolves. Morell is a science writer rather than a scientist, but she does her job very effectively and writes engagingly about the work of the real scientists who are trying to map animal behavior and communication. She is able to balance an obvious enthusiasm ...more
One of those rare books where even though the subject matter interested me it took me ages to finish it. I'd read part of a chapter and then not get back to it for weeks or even months. It's a very easy-to-put-down book but I suppose there is no real reason to rush through it as there is no plot-ending or story climax to hurry towards. That said I could have done with fewer descriptions of what the researchers wore and looked like and more details on the studies / tests they were doing. The last ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won't be rating this one because it's so different from everything I usually read. It was probably the first non fiction book I finished in a long while, because I wanted to do something different. It was really interesting, not exactly what I will call "entertaining" but that's just because non fiction is universally boring to me. Still, I am happy I read it, now I know some interesting things about fishes, birda, mices... I found less interesting the chapters about apes and dogs. I don't lik ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stem
I found this book totally fascinating and keep bringing up things I learned when talking to folks.
This book was highly informative and for that, I quite enjoyed it. Where I found it lacking was with the underlining message. Morell's book advocates that people need to pay attention to the science: animals are sentient, emotional, and intelligent beings (to varying degrees, certainly) and that we must put animal welfare at the forefront when handling/caring for animals in zoos, factory farms, research labs,etc.To quote, she says "it seems past time to find better methods for managing these ani ...more
Rucsandra Tudoran
Oh, Mother Earth 🧡
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Book Giveaways: Win hardback copy of Animal Wise 1 9 Mar 31, 2013 03:25AM  

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Virginia Morell is an acclaimed science journalist and author. A contributing correspondent for Science, she has covered evolutionary and conservation biology since 1990. A passionate lover of the natural world and a creative thinker, her reporting keeps her in close communications with leading scientists in her fields of interest. Morell is also a regular contributor to National Geographic and Co ...more

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“THERE IS ONE MORE POINT to be made about animal minds and evolution. Evolution is not a progressive force. Although it was once thought that there was a scale of nature or a Great Chain of Being, with all the forms of life ascending in some orderly, preordained fashion—from jellyfish to fish to birds to dogs and cats to us—this is not the case. We are not the culmination of all these “lesser” beings; they are not lesser and we are not the pinnacle of evolution.” 3 likes
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