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Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 178 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307461445
ISBN-10: 0307461440
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. --Nancy Bent


New York Times Bestseller

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

ALA 2014 Notable Book

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013

“Touching and provocative... well-told and often heart-wrenching.”Washington Post

“A fascinating, accessible look at animal cognition.”People

“This enthralling book might change the way we perceive other species who share the planet with us….A compelling read.” – Bark magazine

“This charming book about animal intelligence….has a nice arc to its structure—working from generally more basic (although still remarkable) cognitive abilities of creatures like adventurous ants to the complex thinking of chimps—and it is threaded through with philosophical questions that are as thought-provoking as the creatures and experiments she chronicles.” – Smithsonian magazine

“For most of the 20th Century, animals weren’t allowed to have emotions…But Virginia Morell’s new book, Animal Wise, tells a new story. After six years of reporting in 11 different countries, the longtime science journalist is pretty certain: Animals feel. And strongly, as it turns out.” —Wired

“Each chapter takes readers on an adventure alongside researchers as they probe the minds of such disparate creatures as ants, trout, dolphins, elephants and chimpanzees.” —Scientific American

“Virginia Morell sheds light on the many surprises of cognitive awareness of animals.” – San Francisco Chronicle

Animal Wise presents the latest research on the cognitive processes and emotional expressions manifested in animal behavior [and] reveals a dazzling, amazing world of animal behaviors.”—Portland Oregonian

“Among the best [books on animal cognition is] Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise, which examines how a different emotion or thought process is evident in a different animal (laughter in rats, for example).”—The Economist

“For page after exciting page, [Morell] shows [animals] making decisions, remembering the past, planning the future, and helping others in distress….She resists the urge to close her fine book with musings on what makes humans special. Bravo. It’s humbler, wiser, and more instructive to stop looking down at animals from an imaginary evolutionary pinnacle and, instead, to try to see them as fellow thinking, feeling beings with minds as worthy of understanding as our own.” – Sy Montgomery, American Scholar

"Heart- and brain-stirring...An unprecedented tour....about what goes on in the hearts and minds of our fellow beings, from the laughter of rats to the intellectual curiosity of dolphins." – Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

“Moving and entertaining….[Morell] takes a journalist’s approach to the question of animal minds, but shows a deep compassion and empathy for her subjects, which include species separated by some 100 million years of evolution….[She] obliterates the lines that might separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom by relating trailblazing discoveries of the emotional and intellectual lives of animals. In the process, she challenges us to rethink our ethical obligations to the creatures who share our world.” – KQED.org

"There aren’t enough words in the English language to do justice to Animal Wise... This remarkable book by Virginia Morell is transcendent... Readers will be dazzled by the profound insights being gained through scientific study." – Examiner.com

“Each chapter presents some fascinating and surprising observations…. [Animal Wise] is a good read; it is entertaining and thought-provoking.” – Tucson Citizen

“Thank goodness for sensitive and compassionate writers like Virginia Morell….She has written a stunning volume charting the latest research on wild and domestic animal cognition and emotions.” – Spirituality and Practice

"Animal Wise brings up a lot of important questions. I would recommend [it] for anyone who cares about animals, not only for the wonders it reveals but for the chance it offers to make a difference in their lives."– EcoLit Books

“Morell passionately and consistently proves her point in this frequently fascinating study of animal behavior…. [She] is a gifted writer with a deep knowledge base that never talks down to the reader or the academic community—no small feat.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] delightful exploration of how animals think….Morell makes a fascinating, convincing case that even primitive animals give some thought to their actions.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“After you read this book, you will be convinced that many different animal species have true thoughts and emotions.  You will take a journey to the center of the animal mind.” – Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

“From real-estate appraising ants and wife-beating parrots to laughing rats, grieving elephants, and dogs that play Simon Says, Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise is a fascinating and intellectually sweeping overview of the new science of animal cognition.  With Morell’s unusual ability to capture the passion and humanity of these scientists, this extraordinary book is an impressive treatment of animal minds and a must read for anyone who has ever wondered what is going on in the heads of the creatures we share our world with.” – Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

“Why is it that until very recently, many scientists claimed that animals can’t think?  Every pet owner knows better, and Virginia Morell is our champion.  But she’s not going on guesswork and opinion – Animal Wise is thoroughly and meticulously researched.  And it’s a page-turner – a window to the natural world that will change the way we view other species.  We place ourselves at the top of the evolutionary ladder.  Of course we do.  We invented the ladder.  In her marvelous book, Morell displays the folly of this viewpoint.  Animal Wise is fabulous!” – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

“Morell’s Animal Wise is science writing at its best.  Here she not only translates scientists’ jargon and data into enviable prose, but transmits her love of the field to her audience.  Novice readers will be enthralled to learn about the intelligence of the creatures in this book, and experts will be extremely pleased to see how she makes their work and that of their colleagues accessible to everyone.” – Irene Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me

“From chimpanzees playing computer games to amorous dolphins, Virginia Morell takes us on a lively tour of what we have learned about the emotions and intelligence of animals.  By inviting scientists to tell their personal side of the story, she not only brings the animals closer but also the thrill of discovery.” – Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy

“These animals have incredible minds.  Now thanks to Morell they have a voice.  I love this book.  It makes me even prouder to share this Earth with our non-human kin.” – Jennifer S. Holland, author of Unlikely Friendships

“Anyone who reads this book will be changed forever in their view of life on earth.” – Richard E. Leakey, FRS, Stony Brook Professor of Anthropology and author of The Sixth Extinction

“The scientific expertise Virginia Morell provides to this very important subject, and the way she ties this in with the researchers who know their animals – because knowing them is their life work – make this an important book and a great read.”
Bernd Heinrich, author of Life Everlasting

Animal Wise brings the reader into the lab and field to learn firsthand from the scientists that marvel over the minds of other animals.  Using the sharp pen of an investigative reporter, Morell exposes the expected brilliance of apes, dolphins, and parrots, but also surprises us with simple discoveries of genius among fishes and ants, and even laughter among rats.  Each page allows you to anticipate, sweat, grieve, and celebrate with dedicated scientists as you discover and experience their worlds, and those within the minds of the astounding animals that they study.  Your journey causes reflection; a consideration of how we treat other species and what they think about us.” – John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science, University of Washington and author of Dog Days, Raven Nights and Gifts of the Crow

Animal Wise is a thought-provoking and highly engaging set of essays that captures the changing views of scientists toward the minds and emotional lives of animals. It is sure to have broad impact on attitudes towards other species and our treatment of them. Thank you, Virginia Morell, for adding legitimacy to what we have so painstakingly observed.” – Joyce Poole, PhD, Co-Director of ElephantVoices, member of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, and author of Coming of Age With Elephants

“In sprightly and clear prose Virginia Morell enters the world of animals with respect and insight and with the compelling argument that our lives differ only in degree.  The recognition that we are bound in mind to many other creatures, all of them dependent on us for survival, will, I hope, arouse our compassion and assure them a future.  This is a fascinating, timely, and important book.” – George B. Schaller, Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society

“From ants to apes, Animal Wise covers wide-ranging scientific research on the cognitive and emotional capacities of many different non-human animals.  Noted author Virginia Morell writes clearly and concisely, and this easy read will surely be good for animals because we must use what we know about them to make their lives better in an increasingly human dominated world.” – Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and The Animal Manifesto and editor of Ignoring Nature No More

“It is nice to see a science writer of Virginia Morell’s distinction take on this increasingly important topic, and it is good to have her calm and careful voice added to the conversation.  She has a great deal to teach us about the latest research on the frontiers of this fascinating new world.  Animal Wise is a fine book.” – Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 291 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishers; 1st edition (February 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461445
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Bagley on December 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book is a well written interweaving of scientific, philosophical, and ethical reflections about animals combined with stories and interviews about events and experiments related to whether or not animals think and feel. I like the way that the author shows a kind of methodological bias that predisposes the researcher to not believing that animals can think and feel, a criterion that would make it hard to prove that we can think and feel (similar to the behaviorist arguments of B. F. Skinner proposed in BEYOND FREEDOM AND DIGNITY). The author further goes into several select experiments to do prove, to me, that animals can think and feel. There are some choice quotes seeded throughout the book and are designed to provoke some thinking of our own about the subject, like (page 50):

"Intelligent circuitry can be assembled in any brain, that's my big belief," Schuster said, where he did several of his archerfish studies. (He's since moved to Bayreuth.) "It's not limited to those animals with large brains and many neurons," he said. "if evolution requires it [this kind of intelligent circuitry], it will be assembled--even with a small number of neurons."

And (page 96):

"People have wondered about this for centuries," Berg said. In captivity, he added, parrots do not simply react when humans speak to them (as dogs, cats, chimpanzees, and other animals do); they also articulate responses, almost as if talking back, and sometimes even use words in the correct context; as Alex did. "Those kinds of vocalizations absolutely send a shiver up the spine of cognitive scientists," Berg said, because they suggest that parrots have some innate understanding of the purpose and functions of words as sounds that convey meaning.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Do animal have minds? Are they aware of themselves as entities? Do they love? Grieve? Are lower-order animals capable of learning, or do they just operate on instinct? How much of our thinking and emotions do we share with our fellow creatures, and how much is uniquely human? Those who have loved furry companions tend to one extreme; those not fortunate enough to have had a relationship with a non-human companion tend to the other and may regard most animals as little more than a mobile bundle of instincts. In Animal Wise, science and nature writer Virginia Morell follows the work of dedicated scientists trying to learn the truth about the inner lives of animals from ants to dolphins and chimps.
Each chapter is devoted to the work on a particular species. It begins with ants and runs through fish, parrotlets, parrots, rats (who laugh!), elephants, dolphins (both wild and captive), chimpanzees and other primates, and finally dogs and wolves. Interestingly, Morell, who lives with both cats and dogs, notes that little work has been done on cognition in cats, an omission that I would infer might derive from the innate nature of the subjects as much as a lack of interest.
There are many different things to enjoy in Animal Wise. The animal behavior she documents is delightful and often touching, whether it be archer fish bringing down their prey by squirting them with jets of water or dolphins helping injured members of their species. Equally fascinating are Morell's descriptions of the extremes to which the scientists must go to carry out their work. For example, she recounts the almost bizarrely painstaking process whereby Dr. Nigel Franks and his teams paint tiny dots on the bodies of ants so that they can identify individuals in the course of their study.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Required to read this book for my advanced Human and Animals in Human Services course. The book introduces specific animals from case studies that the author herself has had the opportunity to meet with first hand. This book has completely changed the way I view ants. Who would of thought that one little ant could be so crucial to the entire society. It's amazing to read about each animal discussed in this book and their different cognitive skills in relation to ours. I am much more sensitive to all animals, this book has truly opened my eyes. Must read for any animal lover!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This review, for some reason, is very hard for me to write. The book kind of missed the mark for me, and I cannot figure out why that is; I think I must have been looking for something different than it offered.

Some of the chapters were very interesting. I really enjoyed the one on the birds, and also the one on the elephants and the rats. The other chapters were just really hard for me to get through, and some were actually boring.

From the writeup on this book, ''ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve . . .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?'' I just thought this was going to be a very exciting read. Instead we get blue jays planning ahead is them hiding nuts? And everyone knows squirrels hide away nuts; how is this something different? I was expecting I guess plans that I had never thought of animals as having, instead of something that didn't seem unusual at all. And dogs having thousand word vocabularies was apparently only specially trained dogs. I thought she meant all dogs, and was going to show things about all dogs, not specially trained ones. Now the crows improvising tools was TOTALLY cool! I had NO idea about that and it was very mind opening. I was sorry there wasn't more information on them and what else they might be capable of. As far as the rats being tickled, it was kind of strange, but was interesting and written in a more engaging way than some of the other chapters. I was rather upset though about rats having their feet shocked. What kind of effect does this have on the hearts of the poor little things? I guess the heart wasn't part of the experiments though.
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