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Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  13,980 ratings  ·  1,516 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 275 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2016)
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Davis Yep, insects are animals. I just wanted to drop you a comment though because some of the responses you got aren't accurate.

One person said that if you…more
Yep, insects are animals. I just wanted to drop you a comment though because some of the responses you got aren't accurate.

One person said that if you're not a rock or plant, you're an animal. This isn't true at all - most life on Earth is neither plant nor animal.

Someone else said that insects and bugs are not animals. This is definitely incorrect.

Insects belong to a larger grouping called the Arthropods and are related to sea creatures like crabs and lobsters. (less)
Mommooshka Welcome to GoodReads! Get books you want to read from your library or buy them, although you can also enter the GoodReads Giveaways contests under the…moreWelcome to GoodReads! Get books you want to read from your library or buy them, although you can also enter the GoodReads Giveaways contests under the Browse menu. GoodReads is a great place to read book descriptions and reviews by fellow readers to learn more about books you might want to read, to post your own reviews of books you've read, and to keep lists for yourself of books you want to read or have read. If you're interested, you can also use it as a Book-focused social media site via their Community menu. Happy reading!(less)

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Petra has the Chinese gift that keeps on giving
Review. We are not only not smart enough to know how smart animals are, we lack the sensory equipment to ever be able to measure it. When scientists measure animal intelligence, or when we do with our pets, what we are really doing is measuring their ability to figure out our world.

Since there are many more senses than the ones humans have, animals with differing ones do not see the world as we do. They do not even see the world the same way as each other. Why are we measuring their intelligenc
...more
Miranda Reads
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
The answer is no - we are no where near smart enough to figure out how smart animals are.
Having escaped the Dark Ages in which animals were mere stimulus-response machines, we are free to contemplate their mental lives.
The prevailing theory used to be that animals are all instinct-driven, mute and empty-headed - but that couldn't be further from the truth.

While it is true that animals are influenced by their instincts. For example:
One can train dolphins to jump synchronously because th
...more
Chrissie
I cannot give this book less than three stars because it contains lots of totally fascinating information about animals - the greater and lesser apes, whales, octopus, fish, birds and elephants for example. The author is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior at the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Primate social behavior ...more
Dr. Appu Sasidharan

I am an ailurophile who adores cats. Cats have been an integral part of my family (all my family members also love cats.) Recently I understood that I am unable to understand many things that my cats are trying to communicate with me. So I contacted our Veterinary doctor and also started reading books about animals to learn more about their language.

This is one of the books I purchased to learn more about animals, and I got a large amount of information that I had no clue about before readi
...more
Wanda Pedersen
Instead of making humanity the measure of all things, we need to evaluate other species by what they are.

The field of animal cognition needs to take a lesson from the field of human education—the multiple intelligence model. Not every student will be good at every part of the curriculum, but it’s a rare person who isn’t talented at anything! Physical talent in sports or a love and understanding of nature count as kinds of intelligence, acknowledging that the academic subjects are not necessarily
...more
Bharath
Nov 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The three experts looked at each other and smirked. One glance at the prisoner, and they could tell that he was dumb, totally dumb actually.
‘Well, let us go ahead with this, though it is a waste of time’ said one, and the others nodded.
The artist among them asked the prisoner to draw the scene of a sunset, and within seconds started laughing derisively.
The scientist asked the prisoner if he could explain quantum theory, and the prisoner started at him angrily.
The philosopher asked the prisoner
...more
William2
The book is about clever experiments conducted to show that primates, crows, elephants, etc. possess a sense of the future and the past, that they can a plan for the future, and that they unequivocally make tools. Moreover the experiments discussed here demonstrate that animals have a sense of compassion, altruism and reciprocity just like us (at our best). All of the experiments with primates are interesting, but the ones with caching birds, like Jays—who inhibit immediate gratification for the ...more
David Rubenstein
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
Well, some people are smart enough to know how smart animals are--but some people are not. It depends on whether experimenters can put themselves into the frame of the animal they are studying. Testing an animal in the same way as one might test a human just doesn't cut it. And this is the main theme of the book; that researchers must test animals in accordance with their biology and move away from human-centric approaches.

Frans de Waal has written a fabulous book about researching the intellige
...more
Margitte
I'm going to skip this one. Tried for a few weeks to get through it. Interesting. Two stars means it was OK. But did not rock my boat. If it's meant for plebs like me, then write it in a language I would understand.

I guess it's meant for a different audience. A great scientific exercise.
...more
Kevin
“When any hypothesis... is advanced to explain a mental operation, which is common to men and beasts, we must apply the same hypothesis to both.” ~David Hume, 1739

Humans have underestimated the complexity and sophistication of animal minds for far too long. Like a select minority of his predecessors, Frans de Waal is a voice of reason - pitting fair and balanced rationale against the antiquated ideology of anthropocentrism.

“Although we cannot directly measure consciousness, other species show e
...more
Matt Quann
Sometimes it can be hard to review a book for what it is instead of for what you wanted it to be. This is probably most true of fiction, but science books also vary in the level of depth to which they explore their topic. It can be tough as a reader to judge what audience the author is after, and that can lead to some discrepancy in the technicality of the reading material than expected.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? was a book that delved far more in-depth into the field of
...more
Cheryl
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you read only one book on animal cognition or cognitive ethology, make it this one. If you've read a bunch, as I have, read this anyway. There are some that are more interesting, or more focused, but this is the best current summary of the field, at least for a popular audience that I can find. It concisely provides history, anecdotes, references to other works and studies, a look at the future, and plenty of hard science.

I sincerely doubt I'll ever read another book published before this. As
...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
For awhile Woodland Park Zoo (in my hometown) was in the midst of creating outdoor environments for most of its animals where they could run and hide through tall grasses and shrubbery, climb trees, jump on rocks, or swim in ponds, or swing on tires. With every visit I saw fewer and fewer animals lived in small cement cages. I had bought an annual pass which entitled me to go to the zoo whenever as often as I liked. I worked near the zoo.

I used to go to the gorilla display at the Zoo during my l
...more
Helen Power
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
~ My Thoughts ~
I loved this book. In my undergraduate degree, I only had space for a few electives, and one of the classes I took was “Primate Behaviour”. In this course, we were required to read two Franz de Waal books: Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape. Usually when I’m “forced” to read something, I don’t enjoy it--whether it’s because I don’t have the time to enjoy it or because I’m contrary that way is besides the point. My point is that I genuinely loved these books, so much that
...more
Somethingsnotright
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is another one of my non-reviews -- more of a literary/emotional ramble than an actual critique.

Humans are arrogant. This much I know about us as a species, so to answer the question that the title of this book suggests, I would have to say, generally, we haven't a clue how smart animals are. We are just "dumb animals" too, after all, and there is some arrogance in even asking the question. Who is to say we are the better species for running this ole' planet of ours? Empirical evidence dem
...more
Michael Perkins
Apr 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is very rich in research. It's jam-packed with studies and accounts of animal behavior that were often overlooked in the past because of the bias of researchers.

However one of the odd things that came up over and over was the resistance of some scientists, based on an almost neo-creationist point of view, to the findings of the author and his colleagues. It was the kind of pushback you'd expect from devout Christians rather than scientists who were not necessarily believers. These scie
...more
Kalin
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is too rich and diverse to sum up in a single paragraph, but if there's one lesson I will take from it, it is: For animals and humans, cognitive abilities run along a scale. It is never a case of "we have this, and animals don't"; it is "species X has this to the extent Y--as far as we can tell from our current observations." That in itself is a giant step toward humanity's next, more caring, more empathetic version.

A few favorite passages:

https://choveshkata.net/forum/viewtop...
...more
Bobby
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is famed primatologist Frans de Waal at his best. We get the insight into the animal kingdom, with an emphasis on apes and monkeys, that we've seen in books like The Bonobo and The Atheist, The Age of Empathy, and Our Inner Ape. In this book, De Waal takes a close look at various ways of trying to understand animal cognition and goes in-depth into such topics as problem solving, communication, self-awareness, and relationship to events past and present, i.e. memory and planning for the ...more
Chelsea
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my type of nonfiction. Animal behavior has been a topic of interest to me for as long as I can remember. I love that this book brought up the concept that we can no longer test an animal's cognitive abilities by expecting results or behavior similar to a human's. Just because we are expecting a certain result in a seemingly simple test that we designed does not mean that the "right" result is fits that animal's instincts. This book brought to mind that saying that we can't judge a fish b ...more
Kristy K
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, science, animals
While I enjoyed this, I also found it very dry. I thought de Waal had plenty of fascinating insights and recorded studies of how intelligent animals truly are.
Leo Walsh
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow. Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? is a breath of fresh air. It is a refreshing, insightful science book that both enlightens and entertains. In fact, I’d call it the most interesting science book I’ve read since Godel, Escher, Bach.

If you’ve ever had a dog or a cat, you know they have “insides.” They think. They relate. And they have distinct personalities. And to see any dog looking at their master, waiting for a command… that seems love and respect person
...more
L.G. Cullens
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Relative to other such non-fiction books regarding the natural world that I've read, this to me is a four star read.

As an over the hill naturalist student I still try to keep up with natural sciences research papers and books, and having read some of the author's previous books I was curious to read this one. To my perspective, in this book Frans De Waal presents a well-balanced, informative, lay-level description of the state of his science (Primatology and Ethology), his thinking, and a bit of
...more
da AL
Nov 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ahah! Ahah! & Of course! Intelligent & thought provoking! When humans put away our arrogance as a species, we find each of us is smart, each smarter than the other to navigate the sort of body we've been born into... Sean Runnett is perfect as the audiobook version's reader. ...more
Udit Nair
Incredibly Insightful.

This is my second book from the same author and it is bang on point. First of all the title itself is very intriguing and picking it up became natural. The author very humbly does admit that it's not like a subject book but moreover like commentary on cognition studies. But it indeed challenges most of the paradigms on it's way.

The book starts with most profound statement given by Charles Darwin that is "The difference in mind between man and the higher animals,great as i
...more
Hákon Gunnarsson
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, animals
I think this is exactly the book I would recommend to anyone that use the phrase “dumb animal,” because I’ve never read a book that explores their intelligence better. De Waal does a few things in this book. He gives the reader an overview of the way research into this field has developed from the time of Darwin to the present day, and he shows how far this research has got today, but also shows where more research is needed.

I’m not a scientist, just a reader interested in this subject, and wha
...more
✨    jami   ✨
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Are we open-minded enough to assume that other species have a mental life? Are we creative enough to investigate it? Can we tease apart the roles of attention, motivation, and cognition? Those three are involved in everything animals do; hence poor performance can be explained by any one of them.”


if you love animals, you'll probably love this book I love animals and I really liked this book. It was so interesting to read about all the different tests and case studies of animals and animal
...more
Book Riot Community
Humans have always used animals as a natural resource, justifying the killing of our fellow creatures in various ways, but mainly by assuming they are not like us. What if our denialism masks that animals are more like us than we can imagine? Can they think? Are they self-aware? Can they plan, remember and anticipate? Frans de Waal describes scientific research that reveals astonishing answers. When chimpanzees beat human children at video games or birds understand our language or elephants reme ...more
Krista
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2016
Are we open-minded enough to assume that other species have a mental life? Are we creative enough to investigate it? Can we tease apart the roles of attention, motivation, and cognition? Those three are involved in everything animals do.

Like many of the other first year Liberal Arts university students I knew at the time, I took a lot of Intro courses (Intro to Psychology, Intro to Philosophy, Intro to Sociology), and these were for the most part fascinating enough to me that I broadened my
...more
Tyler J Gray
“Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?” is a wonderful and insightful look at animal intelligence and cognition! It is backed up by evidence from controlled experiments and field research. It includes history on the beliefs of animal cognition and research, and how much people have learned over the years.

I went into this book already open-minded about how smart animals are, I already believed they are often smarter than people give them credit for, and I was still amazed and learne
...more
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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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“humans are a strange lot. We have the power to analyze and explore the world around us, yet panic as soon as the evidence threatens to violate our expectations” 19 likes
“Are we open-minded enough to assume that other species have a mental life? Are we creative enough to investigate it? Can we tease apart the roles of attention, motivation, and cognition? Those three are involved in everything animals do; hence poor performance can be explained by any one of them.” 19 likes
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