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Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Frans de Waal (Author, Emory University)

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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 eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.

People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different forms that are often incomparable to ours? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you’re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal—and human—intelligence.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • April 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35366-2
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 352 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverAre We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?


Endorsements & Reviews

“An entertaining, convincing case for assessing each species’s intelligence on its own terms….not only full of information and thought-provoking, it’s also a lot of fun to read.” — Nancy Szokan, Washington Post

“A passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.” — Alison Gopnik, The Atlantic

“Engaging and informative.” — New York Times

“A beautifully written and delightfully conceived popular science book, written by an eminent researcher who has dedicated his career to making the general public aware of just how smart animals are.” — Nicola Clayton, Science

“Walks us through research revealing what a ride range of animal species are actually capable all deals a pretty fierce wallop to our sense of specialness.” — Jon Mooallem, New York Times Book Review

“Thoroughly engaging, remarkably informative, and deeply insightful…. de Waal teaches readers as much about humankind as he does about our nonhuman relatives.” — Boxed, Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Amazing…. The clarity of [De Waal’s] writing makes for a highly readable book…. a trip to the zoo may never be the same.” — Starred Review, Kirkus

“Insightful and Waal fans and general readers interested in the field of animal cognition will be delighted.” — Starred Review, Library Journal

“This is a remarkable book by a remarkable scientist. Drawing on a growing body of research including his own, de Waal shows that animals, from elephants and chimpanzees to the lowly invertebrates, are not only smarter than we thought, but also engaged in forms of thought we have only begun to understand.” — Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? will completely change your perceptions of the abilities of animals. This book takes the reader on a fascinating journey of discovery into the world of animal problem-solving.” — Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

Also by Frans de Waal All

  1. Book CoverThe Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates


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