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Publisher's Summary

From world-renowned biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal comes this groundbreaking work on animal intelligence destined to become a classic.

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 been eroded - or even disproved 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, often incomparable forms? 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 an 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.

©2016 Frans de Waal (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Finally the science catches up

This book gives a variety of examples where science has shown different examples of animals acting smart, being self-aware, and in ways we can relate to them.

I like the authors proposition that we should not discount the ability of all of life to exhibit intelligence, most of which is related to their requirements to survive.

As far as consciousness, or being self aware, these are general terms and pretty much subjective even within our species. The author explains this very well, a book well worth the time.

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 07-06-16

Enlightening but not earth-shattering

This book tells us that animals have cognition. When you interact with your pet dog, it isn’t just an automaton responding reflexively to Pavlovian stimuli, it actually has awareness. It thinks. It has cognition.

Were you ever in any doubt about this? I wasn’t. It’s the most obvious fact in the world that pets have consciousness and awareness. They have ‘minds’ just like we do (if there is such a thing!). This book argues this fact as if an army of behaviourist scientists are disputing it, which I suppose they must be, but to me it’s pretty obvious and so the basic message of this book isn’t an astounding life-changer.

But the book does add a lot of breadth and depth to this basic premise. For one thing, it challenges the notion that human cognition is essentially different (and superior) to all other animal cognition. He provides lots of examples of primate cognition which are very hard to separate from the way we think, such as planning for the future and understanding the motivations of other members of a social group. He makes the case that animal cognition has been underestimated by behaviourists because they tend to study animals in laboratories. Laboratories are unnatural environments which do not bring the best out of animals. They are much better studied in their natural environments. Many imaginative experiments have been performed in natural environments proving that animals function at a high cognitive level.

And this extends beyond primates to other animals: Elephants, dolphins (who know each other by name), birds and invertebrates, such as the octopus. They’re all shown in this book to be much cleverer than they’ve previously been given credit for, and it is hard to deny that they have consciousness.

It’s an entertaining book that probably won’t change your World View too much (unless you’re a behaviourist), and the take-home message is ‘animals are smarter than you think’.

65 of 69 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating, technical, current.

For a person without technical knowledge of animal behavior, this book stretched me to see the intelligence and cognition of animals in new ways. I now have a much greater appreciation of my dogs mental capacity, his emotional life and depth of attachment.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Incredibly insightful!!!! With great narration!!!

Once again Mr. Frans de Waal is opening eyes to the intelligence, character and political nature of animals, including us humans. In spite of our human egos and pre conceptions. The natural world is full of intelligent acts. From chimpanzee politics and social planning to killer whales hunting seals by isolating them. And, the incredible octopus, turning the tables on sharks.
I highly recommend this listen!! It opened my eyes to human short comings when it comes to the question of what intelligence really is!!!
Plus Mr. Sean Runette's narration! As always, is perfect for this type of material!!! He is quite possibly then most versatile narrator out there!!!👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Dayle
  • Hoover, Al, United States
  • 06-30-16

What he said!

Any additional comments?

Great arguments for intelligence of animals, when judge from animal perspective. Loads of examples and stories. Nothing really new, except for perspectives sake. Humans think animals should be rated from a human point of view. Wrong! Narrator is one of my favorites! Very warm and easy on ears.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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MOre to know about the other

What did you love best about Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are??

I love the information about animals, animal research and the connection to man

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the information and the knowledge we have learned about animals

What about Sean Runnette’s performance did you like?

The reader had a passion for the book also.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

oh, never, the books i enjoy are best absorbed in many sittings, much to much to think about and delightful.

Any additional comments?

a grand bit of knowledge.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating subject

The entire book was interesting and captivating. It answered many questions I had about how animals think and understand. I still have many questions that were left unanswered, yet that may not be in the scope of the book.

I wish the book was twice as long.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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dull, really dull

I listened to 8 of 12 chapters hoping it would turn around, but then I couldn't take it any longer. I was looking forward to a fascinating narrative of the observed intelligence of a variety of animals, but this was mostly a dry rambling dissertation/critique of other ethologists and psychologists with occasional descriptions of experiments demonstrating intelligence or our failure to design such experiments properly. If you want to hear 10 hours of 'cognition' pronounced three times a minute, then this text is for you. I am usually not bothered by narrators quirks, but this one's ill fitting denture only added to the annoying narrative.

35 of 46 people found this review helpful

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Sooo good

Fun and educational. An excellent listen. Highly recommend to animal lovers and those fascinated by science.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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FdW leads inspiring narrative on animal cognition

This book made me an even bigger fan of Fans de Waal. Brave and compelling

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • regan
  • 03-05-17

Fantastic overview and insight

I'm a scientist and I work in the field of behaviour. Because of this I knew much of the material and people mentioned by de waal. However it was still a fantastic journey with great history, current and future research analysis. I would recommend this as required reading before entering the field of animal behaviour to any scientist, and that it is available for anyone to listen to is fantastic. Want to know the bleeding edge of animal behaviour alongside how this shapes our view of the world and ethics then this is the book for you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Deborah Hoad
  • 07-17-17

Excellent

This book is interesting, entertaining and at times deeply moving. Fascinating to understand the extent to which what we think of as human abilities and characteristics are present in other animals. It made think a lot about what this indicates about human evolution and evolution in general.