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Animal wise : the thoughts and emotions of…

Animal wise : the thoughts and emotions of our fellow creatures (edition 2013)

by Virginia Morell

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2254151,607 (4.07)38
Title:Animal wise : the thoughts and emotions of our fellow creatures
Authors:Virginia Morell
Info:New York : Crown, 2013.
Collections:Reviewed and withdrawn
Tags:Early reviewers, read in 2013, recycled

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Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell


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I want to love this book so much. It has a lot of interesting facts, and Morell does a great job of making you care about both the animals and the scientists who study them. The problem is that many of the conclusions that she draws don't really seem to be supported by evidence.

For example, in one chapter about the minds of dolphins, Morell describes an experiment in which two dolphins were captured together, but then separated. After a few weeks, the dolphins were reunited, and their actions showed that they were happy about this development. Morell then writes that this clearly shows that the dolphins recognized each other from before. It could also be argued that the dolphins were merely excited about being with another dolphin after a few weeks. I agree that, given the intelligence of dolphins as described elsewhere in the book, they most likely recognized each other, but the simple fact is that the experiment in question did not conclusively show this to be true.

This is just one example, and while most of the conclusions that Morell comes to are much more concrete, there are still numerous unsupported suppositions throughout the text. There are also quite a few quotations from scientists that are presented almost as fact, even though they are merely the professional opinions of the scientists themselves. I don't mean to suggest that I'm a better judge of the animal mind than these researchers, but I find it a bit misleading to present opinions in such a manner in a science book. The line between scientific opinion and scientific fact should be more clearly delineated in a few sections.

Nevertheless, it's a very engaging book. The parts of it that work do so splendidly and make for some of the most interesting scientific passages I've read in years. ( )
1 vote barriboy | Jan 25, 2016 |
This book features ants who teach their nestmates routes, archerfish who learn how to hit a novel target by watching their colleagues, birds who can count and recognise themselves in a mirror (thus having a sense of self) and whose calls seem to include names for individuals, rats who laugh when they are tickled, the prodigious memories of elephants, dolphins who form friendships and alliances with other non-related dolphins, chimpanzees who can solve touch-screen intelligence tests and memorise patterns of objects faster than humans can, and finally dogs who pick up human social cues.

The author stresses the great strides being made in our knowledge now that the old paradigm of animals as stimulus-response automatons has gone. A recurring theme is that it is animals who live in social groups and need to know who can be relied upon for what and who can't which seem to develop intelligence.

A fascinating read. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Aug 13, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an LTER book that I struggled to start but ultimately found interesting. Each chapter concerns itself with a different animal and the various studies that were, or are, being performed to prove animals have thoughts, emotions, and feelings. I went into it with no illusions that animals didn’t have thoughts, emotions, and feelings so she didn’t have to convince this reader of anything.

My struggle at the start was the first chapter, “The Ant Teacher”. I started it many times before I opted to skip it. Apparently I don’t care about the emotional life of ants.

The second chapter, “Among Fish”, ultimately went the way of the ants. I haven’t fished in years but I love to eat fish. I didn’t want anything to interfere with that. That fish feel pain is not something unexpected. I skimmed the chapter. I may go back to it.

Moving on, the book improved greatly. The chapters on birds, parrots, elephants, dolphins, and chimpanzees were fascinating. I had already heard of some of the studies the author discussed, but it was interesting to read about them. The elephant chapter was tear inducing. Unfortunately, the final chapter on dogs really offered nothing new that anyone with a half-smart dog didn’t already know. I didn’t mention the chapter on rats which I read but didn’t particularly enjoy because, well, rats.

The paperback edition I read, with a border collie on the cover, was entitled Animal Wise, How We Know Animals Think and Feel. It is apparently the same book as the hardcover, Animal Wise, The Thoughts and Emotions of our Fellow Creatures, with a baboon on the cover. This bothered me as someone might buy the same book twice. But I think it was wise; the title is clearer and the cover, at least to me, more appealing. ( )
1 vote coppers | Sep 17, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have read this book twice since receiving it - I found it that interesting. I admit that I struggled with the introduction the first time through; the number of scientists mentioned became a bit of a blur to me. I also was impatient to read about actual experiements and research. I skipped then to the last chapter about the canine family, thinking it would be the most interesting to me. Then back to Chapter One. I actually found each and every chapter interesting, enlightening and even entertaining. The information provided gave me a new outlook on the reasons behind the movements of different creatures. I especially found the chapter on ants to be eye-opening. This book is well worth the read. ( )
1 vote unadillacats | Aug 19, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I opened Animal Wise searching for something. I wasn't sure what exactly, but as the owner of two dogs, a cat and a Bearded Dragon and many other various creatures in the past, I was convinced that this book was somehow going to help me understand and communicate with them. I, however, was immensely disappointed.

Animal Wise looks and different species of animals and discusses how these animals, whether pets or wild animals, communicate with each other and show emotion.

I, personally, was floored that this book basically contained not one iota of information that I did not already know by being surrounded by my pets. It makes perfect sense to me that when my Border Collie is chewing a bone and my Goldendoodle barks at him that he wants the bone and is about to take it from him. I also know that when my Bearded Dragon climbs to the top of his "branch" and claws at the top of the tank that he wants me to take him out for a while. These things seem like common sense to me and I certainly didn't need 267 pages of Animal Wise to explain this to me. Yes, I do not own an elephant or an ape, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that when a momma elephant wraps her trunk around her baby it is either expressing love or protection. The same goes with apes - obviously the bigger stronger apes eat first and "control" the younger ones and love is expressed by sharing food and "picking" each other.

If you are expecting to learn anything from Animal Wise - you will be sorely mistaken. This is one of the few and far between books that I finished and thought to myself, I can't believe I spent so much time - that I won't ever get back - on reading something so useless. Sadly, I don't recommend this book to anyone who has anything better to do. ( )
3 vote verka6811 | Jul 4, 2014 |
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Virginia Morellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Elias, MariaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Surely, the most important part of an animal is its anima, its vital spirit, on which is based its character and all the peculiarities by which it most concerns us. Yet most scientific books which treat of animals leave this out altogether, and what they describe are as it were phenomena of dead matter. -- Henry David Thoreau
For my Mother, and for Michael who loves dogs, cats, and all the wild creatures. And for our pets, Buck and Nini, who stayed close while I wrote.
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Animals have minds.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307461440, Hardcover)

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.
   Did you know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve?  Did you know that some dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead, and moths remember living as caterpillars?

   Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals, from ants to elephants to wolves, and from sharp-shooting archerfish to pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs.  With 30 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 pioneering animal-cognition researchers 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:41 -0400)

Explores the frontiers of research on animal cognition and emotion, offering a surprising examination into the hearts and minds of wild and domesticated animals.

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