Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures
Noted science writer Virginia Morell explores the frontiers of research on animal cognition and emotion, offering a surprising and moving exploration into the hearts and minds of wild and domesticated animals.
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a fish? Or a parrot, dolphin, or elephant? Do they experience thoughts that are similar to ours, or have feelings of grief and love? These are tough questions, but scientists are answering them. They know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, and that rats love to be tickled. They’ve discovered that dogs have thousand-word vocabularies, that parrots and dolphins have names, and that birds practice their songs in their sleep. But how do scientists know these things?
Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals from ants to wolves, and among the pioneering researchers who are leading the way into once-forbidden territory: the animal mind. With thirty years of experience covering the sciences, Morell uses her formidable gifts as a story-teller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to animal-cognition scientists and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects. She explores how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do. She probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even “lesser animals” have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality, and self-awareness–traits that many in the twentieth century felt were unique to human beings.
By standing behaviorism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond, and she shares her admiration for the men and women who have simultaneously chipped away at what we think makes us distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities come from.
John W. Pilley, has taught his border collie, Chaser, 1,022 words. Chaser could have learned more, Pilley told a New York Times reporter in 2011, but the human was bored. a I interviewed Kaminski and Betsy’s owners for my National Geographic article on animal minds; the owners were proud to have their dog featured, but they worried that someone who disliked dogs would recognize her from her photograph in the magazine and harm her. b Kaminski now suspects that dogs “may perceive a lot of human
case, our hearing) with information we’ve previously gathered via other senses and stored in our memories. Elephants and many other species from vervet monkeys to songbirds and parrots seem to be doing something similar to what people do. But as McComb well knows, showing with hard data that an animal actually recognizes a specific individual isn’t easy to do. When she became stumped about how to set up such a test for elephants in the wild, she turned to domesticated horses back home instead.
said. Reiss, who is normally very chatty, fell silent as she packed her gear. I thought she was worried about the train she had to catch and, to help out, offered to call a taxi. She shook her head. “It’s like entering another world when I’m watching the dolphins,” she said, half apologetically. “I get lost in it, and it takes me a while to come back out.” I had to agree: there was something mesmerizing, almost seductive, about watching the dolphins, and after Reiss left I lingered near the
his graduate students in the summer of 1967 to collectively design an experiment on dolphin intelligence. The university did not have dolphins for research, so Herman turned to Karen and Tap Pryor, who had opened Sea Life Park, a commercial venture, on the island a few years before.‖ The pair eventually agreed to let Herman and his students use one female dolphin, named Wela, for their project. “We wanted to see if dolphins could surpass the learning and problem-solving abilities of rhesus
behavior—in learning how to watch and think as the scientists do, with an open mind, patience, and an alertness to details. The elephant watchers I joined in Kenya, for instance, recorded every ear flap of an elephant matriarch and her kin; those subtle movements held the clues to the decisions the elephants were making and wordlessly told the other elephants how they were feeling and what they were about to do. And in Australia, scientists studying the greater bowerbirds mapped and tabulated