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Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  8,471 ratings  ·  1,086 reviews
A New York Times Bestseller: “Astonishing…has the makings of a classic—and one fantastic read.” —People

What separates your mind from an animal’s? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future—all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet’s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have
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Paperback, 275 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company (first published April 25th 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…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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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 they
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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
Wanda
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
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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
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
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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.
Matthew 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
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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
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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
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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
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Somethingsnotright
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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Kristy K
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, 2018, 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.
✨    jamieson   ✨
“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
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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 ...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
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Tyler J [They/He] 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
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AC
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible, animals
De Waal is interested in the topic of what he calls evolutionary cognition -- which refers to the study of how animals think, feel, degrees of consciousness, etc. He has been one of the foremost critics, in the past 20 years, of Behaviorism and proponents of ethology (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethology). This book, in particular, offers in a very readable format (written for the educated layman), an overview of the development of the field, and of the various topics within in. Rich in ...more
Amirography
Awesome book! I loved it. From the content, to the choice of words. I loved how he showed that sometimes "skepticism" is actually pseudo-skepticism which results from our eagerness to know ourselves as something special and different from all the other organisms, which the author -rightly so- names "Anthropocentrism".
I loved this book. It shows the shortcomings of the field of ethology and how they can be fixed. And also how much evidence our society is underrating, even though many of them are
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Richard Reese
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Primatologist Frans de Waal has made a career out of pounding his head against the rugged wall of human exceptionalism — the belief that humans are the only species that is conscious, self-aware, rational, cooperative, goal-oriented, empathetic, and so on. This wall of calcified grandiosity has resisted change for a long time, and has inspired an abusive relationship with the rest of the family of life. With his new book, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, de Waal has launched a ...more
Liza Fireman
Even though this book had some nice content, it was so repetitive that it really bothered me. I could not even count how many time the author mentioned "it was once taboo for scientists to name their animals".

I think the main thing that becomes clear in this book is how we judge other animals: What a bizarre animal we are that the only question we can ask in relation to our place in nature is “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the smartest of them all?”. We don't have the right tools or ideas
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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
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Book
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? By Frans de Waal

“Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” is an insightful look at animal intelligence backed up by evidence from controlled experiments. Dutch/American biologist with a Ph.D. in zoology and ethology and author of Our Inner Ape and others, Frans de Waal, takes the reader on a journey of the sophistication of nonhuman minds. This entertaining 352-page book includes the following nine chapters: 1. Magic Wells, 2. A Tale
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Lyn Elliott
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Primatologist De Waal mounts a passionate, research-based case for animal intelligence. If ever you were in doubt, read this. It's a fascinating book, and important for anyone who thinks about the relationship between humans and animals.

He argues for an end to the view that humans are unique, that previous concepts of linear evolution with humans at the top of the scale are wrong, and reflect 'anthropodenial '- a priori rejection of humanlike traits in other animals or animal like traits in us'.
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Kds
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've already pre-ordered it so that I can read it again in print and underline things that strike me and write love notes along the margins. This is the book I wanted to write and I am thrilled that someone eminently more qualified and clever than me has done so. Frans De Waal's "Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?" introduces readers thoughtfully and humorously to the evolution of our study of animals bringing us smoothly to the present. De Waal gently shifts paradigms so that we ...more
Jeanette
It's interesting but not terribly inclusive and sometimes repetitious. It's crux is the umwelt of animals. Their worldview in their senses and body cognition. Primarily there is and has been for centuries a large disagreement between behavioral and a more singular cognition brain use re animals studies. Frans de Waal is not on the behavioral long term view that was so usually taught when I was young (more than half of the last century). Others in their excellent reviews here have explained it ...more
debbicat ☮~Traveling Sister
Fascinating read. Written by primatologist Frans de Waal, this is an astonishing study of animal intelligence. Did you know that Apes plan for the future? Or that elephants fetch boxes to reach a branch? Animals are amazing! So glad to see more information coming out on this.

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

YAY! I see (Dec. 12, 2016) that this won in the awards for Best Science for GR 2016. I did vote for it. If you weren't sure before, now can
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Ram
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
A nice book that basically claims that animals have very high cognitive abilities. These abilities include making and using tools, future planning, changing behavior based on knowing what other (animal) individuals saw (and therefore know), memory that excels human memory, complex social behavior and many other features. The author claims that basically, we do not have the knowledge to evaluate the cognitive ability of animals and in many cases the experiments we do are the reason we come to the ...more
Ilana
I'm glad I read this book, because it's about a topic that interests me a lot, i.e. how ethologists* approach testing animals for signs of intelligence that are in keeping with their environment and physical attributes and needs. I was surprised to discover that ethologists had an uphill battle through most of the 20th century, and still to this day face fierce opposition from creationists on the one hand and those who refuse to believe human beings might share cognitive and social skills with ...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.
“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.” 12 likes
“The key point is that anthropomorphism is not always as problematic as people think. To rail against it for the sake of scientific objectivity often hides a pre-Darwinian mindset, one uncomfortable with the notion of humans as animals. When we are considering species like the apes, which are aptly known as “anthropoids” (humanlike), however, anthropomorphism is in fact a logical choice. Dubbing an ape’s kiss “mouth-to-mouth contact” so as to avoid anthropomorphism deliberately obfuscates the meaning of the behavior. It would be like assigning Earth’s gravity a different name than the moon’s, just because we think Earth is special.” 9 likes
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