Review: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
By Frans de Waal
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393353662, April 2017, 352pp.

The Short of It:

An interesting look at animal intelligence.

The Rest of It:

This was a fascinating read and also an interesting choice for a book club selection. Definitely not something I would have picked up on my own. Basically, Frans de Waal’s work involves experiments and tests to determine just how intelligent animals are and whether or not some of their intelligence is inferred by humans.

What I found interesting is how difference species would solve the same problem in different ways, given their exposure to certain situations and whether outside influences such as being fed before a study could affect the outcome. A lot of these experiments are food based so a chimpanzee who has been fed beforehand, may react differently than one who has not.

I have a dog. I think she is brilliant. I believe she has full thoughts and works through problems in a systematic manner. But after reading this book, I realize that most of her action is cued by me, unknowingly. The way I stand, the way I may look at a certain object are giving her clues on how to behave. Interesting, huh?

If you have any interest in animal intelligence at all then this book will fascinate you. Frans de Waal has a VERY interesting TED Talk on his work if you’d like to check it out.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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16 thoughts on “Review: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”

  1. This book sounds interesting. I believe that Lucy is very smart. Roxie didn’t seem to be as smart and clever as Lucy but I think she has learned from Lucy.

  2. The theory we have in our household is that the humans have been very well trained and our dog picks up on our routine cues to know the upcoming activity. For example, I go to the bathroom, put on my shoes and Charlie knows it’s time for a walk. 🙂

  3. I recently became interested in animal intelligence when I saw some cows doing some things that I though was amazing, for cows. I’ll look for this book.

    1. I saw from your other comment that you managed to snag a copy. What were the cows doing? I thought the experiments in this book were very interesting.

      1. I saw a video of them playing with a ball and that video led to more videos of them doing other things. I ended up watching quite a few videos I was very impressed with how smart they are. In one a cow used it’s head to lift a water pump lever to get water.

  4. I’d probably like this as I recall reading something years ago about animal intelligence and really enjoyed it. NF has been a pleasant change lately. The hub and I listened to the Jim Comey book recently (no review yet) and we LOVED it. It’s not 100% politics but more of a memoir, he was the reader and made it fantastic.

  5. I just read an article that says that an elephant recognizes itself when looking in a mirror. Most animals think a reflection is another animal. It’s why dogs bark at their reflections. However, elephants know that it is themselves. Scientists tested this by putting a painted dot on an elephant’s forehead and then showing them their reflection in a mirror. The elephant touched the painted dot on its own forehead rather than the mirror. It is proof that animals are more intelligent than we truly understand. (Dolphins are another animal outside of humans with this understanding of reflection versus self.)

    1. The reflection observation is really very interesting. This book is filled with the same types of observations. You’d think a chimp would behave the same way as say another similar species but not necessarily so. I liked the example of teamwork and how certain animals knew the value of teamwork if it meant less work for a reward. It was a good book club discussion for sure.

  6. I too think my dog is very smart. How much animals know sort of amazes me. I talk to my dog all the time. I think I’d like this book. I’m an animal person!

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