Reviews for Animal Wise : The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures


Booklist Reviews 2013 February #2
Animals have minds, and they use them. As science-writer Morell (Ancestral Passions, 1996; Blue Nile, 2001) points out, the question isn't "do animals think?" but "what do they think?" Morell's journey into the minds of animals (and the researchers who study them) began when she watched her dog invent a game; but she was truly set on her path after clearly being singled out by one of Jane Goodall's chimpanzee subjects. In this exploration of animal cognition, the author visits numerous scientists and observes their research, both in laboratories and in the wild. She sees firsthand, and reports in thoroughly engaging language, research with animals as disparate as ants and elephants, or from such different lifestyles as rats and dolphins. We learn of ants that teach other ants, of rats that express their social joy through special chirps that resemble laughter, and of elephants that grieve for their dead. Archerfish show us that fish can imitate other fish, and dogs reveal that they understand human rules. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #2
Animals not only have minds, but personalities and emotions. They make plans, calculate, cheat and even teach, writes veteran science writer Morell (Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings, 1997) in this delightful exploration of how animals think. Until 50 years ago, most scientists--but not Darwin--believed that blind instinct governed animal behavior; thinking was unnecessary and therefore absent. Morell documents her interviews with scientists across the world whose studies have reduced this to a minority opinion. Readers anticipating the traditional high-IQ dog/monkey/elephant examples will receive a jolt in the first chapter, which reveals that ants are no slouches in the brain department. Members of a complex society, they solve problems with a flexibility that would be impossible if ant neurons were simple and hard-wired. No less impressive are fish, birds and rats, which the author examines in subsequent chapters. Fish feel pain. Birds sing because their parents teach them. Parrots not only imitate human sounds, they know what they are saying and can identify numbers, shapes, colors and even differences between them. Rats engaged in play make sounds that reveal that they are enjoying themselves. Entering familiar territory, Morell also looks at elephants and dolphins, which have long memories and sophisticated personal relationships that include genuine affection. While chimps perform their impressive feats, dogs occupy the final chapter since many experts believe that a dog's obsession with reading and responding to our cues make it the best model for understanding the human mind. Although human cognition remains uniquely profound, evolution guarantees that it has a long history, and Morell makes a fascinating, convincing case that even primitive animals give some thought to their actions. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #4

Morell (Ancestral Passions), laying it out on the first page of her survey of various animals' thought processes, declares: "animals have minds. They have brains, and use them, as we do: for experiencing the world, for thinking and feeling and for solving the problems of life every creature faces." That's a bold statement, considering the widely-held theory that animals do not have feelings or the ability to reason, but Morell passionately and consistently proves her point in this frequently fascinating study of animal behavior. Over the course of the book's 352 pages, Morell reveals that rats dream as humans do (they also love to be tickled and can even grasp the concept of playtime), parrots have conversations, elephants grieve, and monkeys and apes conspire with one another. Careful to avoid the cardinal scientific sin of anthropomorphizing her subjects, Morell interviews a wide range of researchers to learn about their methodology and insights into animal cognition. Tempering her enthusiasm and delight for her material, Morell is a gifted writer with a deep knowledge base that never talks down to the reader or the academic community--no small feat. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Morell (Ancestral Passions), laying it out on the first page of her survey of various animals' thought processes, declares: "animals have minds. They have brains, and use them, as we do: for experiencing the world, for thinking and feeling and for solving the problems of life every creature faces." That's a bold statement, considering the widely-held theory that animals do not have feelings or the ability to reason, but Morell passionately and consistently proves her point in this frequently fascinating study of animal behavior. Over the course of the book's 352 pages, Morell reveals that rats dream as humans do (they also love to be tickled and can even grasp the concept of playtime), parrots have conversations, elephants grieve, and monkeys and apes conspire with one another. Careful to avoid the cardinal scientific sin of anthropomorphizing her subjects, Morell interviews a wide range of researchers to learn about their methodology and insights into animal cognition. Tempering her enthusiasm and delight for her material, Morell is a gifted writer with a deep knowledge base that never talks down to the reader or the academic community--no small feat. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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