Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? | Granta

  • Published: 19/05/2016
  • ISBN: 9781783783052
  • Granta Books
  • 352 pages

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Frans de Waal

What separates your mind from the mind of an animal?

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 pre-eminent species on Earth. But in recent decades, claims of human superiority have been eroded by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools, or how elephants can classify humans by age, gender, and language. Take Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University who demonstrates his species’ exceptional photographic memory.

Based on research on a range of animals, including crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and, of course, chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores the scope and depth of animal intelligence, revealing how we have grossly underestimated non-human brains. He overturns the view of animals as stimulus-response beings and opens our eyes to their complex and intricate minds. With astonishing stories of animal cognition, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? challenges everything you thought you knew about animal – and human – intelligence.

A lively, punchy and rigorous review of 20 years of academic studies of animals' mental lives, written by one of the most prominent thinkers in the field... It is the half-century-long failure of science and empathy that motivates de Waal's fascinating book... De Waal demolishes the pedestal on which we have placed humanity... [it is] an important corrective to human exceptionalism

James McConachie, Sunday Times

If you are at all interested in what it is to be an animal, human or otherwise, you should read this book

Matthew Cobb, Guardian

Compellingly recounted by De Waal, who has a long and distinguished career in animal psychology... This book makes plan [that] we can see plenty of ourselves in our animal cousins too

Raphael Hogarth, The Times

The Author

Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The New York Times bestselling author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (Granta, 2016) and Our Inner Ape (Granta, 2005) 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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