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Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on Human Nature Hardcover – October 21, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In analyzing the rare, documented cases of children raised by animals and of animals that seem to exhibit thought, Candland, professor of psychology and animal behavior at Bucknell University, takes an unusual and thoughtful tack. Though arresting in themselves, these cases serve to provoke his reflections on what they say about the scientists and experimenters, and about their ramifications for psychoanalysis, behaviorism and phenomenology. From studies of feral children, Candland observes that lack of early education can cripple learning. He traces the source of the "Mental Ladder" of animal intelligence, and, after examining cases of chimpanzees that seemed to learn writing, concludes that animals don't learn by imitation but repeat behavior that produces pleasure. Though apes have been shown to communicate with their experimenters, scientists, according to Candland, have concentrated on that act and have not tried to map what it really means to the apes. His observations provoke much thought about the nature of experimentation and of knowledge. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Consistently insightful exploration of how we think about how we think. The case histories incorporated here offer fascinating and informative reading by themselves, but Candland (Psychology and Animal Behavior/Bucknell University), who occasionally writes for The New Yorker, surrounds each one with lively commentary, observation, and wit, making his narrative a treasury of insights into how, over time, we have thought about who and what we are. Starting with the best-known cases of feral children--Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron; the Wolf Girls of India; and Kaspar Hauser-- the author gives us the primary documents and eyewitness accounts that allow him to explore what it was that people saw when they looked at these celebrated individuals. Dr. J.M.G. Itard--Victor's Boswell, Skinner, and Miracle Worker--carried the intellectual baggage of his time, including the idea of the ``noble savage,'' and geared Victor's education toward coaxing out what was innately human in the boy; a century later, the Wolf Girls' parents undertook to suppress what they considered to be their children's underlying animal nature. In each case, Candland demonstrates that most of the conclusions reached about each of these feral children were little more than projections of what we wanted to believe about human nature. He then explores four contemporary psychological ``modalities''--``The Mental Ladder''; psychoanalysis; behaviorism; and phenomenology--and shows how each of these schemata is among our most powerful tools for understanding, analyzing, and finding our place within the world. The remainder of the text surveys the history of teaching apes to communicate with humans, exploring how our feelings about our relationship to these apparent parodies of ourselves have shaped this endeavor. Both a celebration of our endless desire to communicate across any boundary and a documentation of our tendency to end up talking only to ourselves. Original and entertaining popular science. (Seventy photos, 19 drawings) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (October 21, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195074688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195074680
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kelly A. Garbato on January 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although I found the subject matter of this book to be extremely interesting, I thought that the author's writing style was dry and boring. It was difficult for me to get through an entire chapter without falling asleep. His thesis was rather unclear, so I also had trouble trying to figure out just what point he was arguing. Of course, it's the only book like it that I've been able to find as of yet - so he definitely gets credit for originality.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because of an ongoing interest in feral children and the treatment of non-human primates in our culture. Also as a way of enriching my reading of Karen Joy Fowler's incredible novel, "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves."
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