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Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805056709
ISBN-10: 080505670X
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Editorial Reviews


“A penetrating, entertaining, and up-to-the-minute book on the minds of animals.” ―Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct

“A welcome addition to the growing body of work on animal thought.” ―The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Marc D. Hauser is a professor at Harvard University, where as a Fellow of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Program he performs laboratory research, supplemented by fieldwork around the world. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and their menagerie of animals.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1st edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080505670X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805056709
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Vervet monkeys make one cry when a cheetah approaches; a different cry when an eagle flies overhead, and yet another cry when a human is near. It's a pity Marc Hauser makes no attempt, Edgar-Rice-Burroughs-style, to transliterate that last cry: I'd like to know the vervet word for "human".
But though Hauser acknowledges the many species that exchange sounds that are very close to being "words", he argues convincingly that they do not have language. That's disappointing, of course, for those of us with that Dr Doolittle urge for closer communication with animals, but clearly how things are. And despite the subtitle "What animals really hink" Hauser concludes that we are too different ever to truly know that: not only will we never settle down with a lion or dog and exchange views about politics and sex and art; but much of their behaviour will remain enigmatic to us. We simply can't imagine or empathise our way into knowing what they are thinking. Many people, anthropomorphising wildly, like to imagine that they can. But there are always alternative explanations for animal behaviour, and no way of checking which is the correct one. Nor do animals have a "moral sense", as is argued in the final section of the book. Though animals do cooperate, and will sacrifice themselves or their interests for the benefit of others. On that question I'm not so sure that the animal form of "ethics" is really qualitively different from the human, despite the cultural ideas we heap up around concepts of "morality". But that's an argument about human thought, and therefore outside the scope of the book.
In some ways the earliest parts of the book are the most interest.
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I was surprised with the negative comments on this book, so I thought I would share my opinions. This book will give you ample talking points to consider with your friends/family: Does this combination of experiments show that animals have self-awareness? Did this animal begin using a tool because they were taught or because they planned a course of action? What other systems do animals use to navigate and explore the world? The book begins by describing how research, both generally and specific to animal models, should be carried out. It also encourages you to think about what types of experiments would need to be implemented in order to tackle questions concerning animal behavior. It then dives into a myriad of animal experiments that demonstrate what we know about what animals think, how they learn, and other interesting questions. If large amounts of experimental data bores you, I would not recommend this book. However, if you are looking for an exhaustive, scientific exploration of animal minds and behavior, this is the one.
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This is a report of ongoing studies, by many in different fields, of whether animals experience "moral emotions, feelings such as guilt, shame and embarrassment", if they're capable of inhibiting their own desires, if they "understand the impact of their" decisions, etc. I'm not sure how objective Mr. Hauser is however as, to me, he seems determined to have his opinion prevail as I can't recall one study he's accepted as valid. I'm sorry too that the studies are not definitive.
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People often think that science should be conclusive, like a good mystery novel. This book illustrates, in an entertaining, layman-accessible style, what most topics of scientific study really give us.
Through a satisfyingly large selection of anecdotal and experimental citations, Hauser explores the process of determining animals' motivations using only behavioral evidence. From this limited angle it's difficult to get very far, but he puts forth a number of viable hypotheses. His conclusions are presented gracefully, acknowledging that other people might interpret the evidence differently. I haven't known of many scientists (or even professors) who could do that!
I really like the "tools" analogy and the explorations and comparisons with the human infant, as well as his captivating writing style. Maybe we will never find out exactly what goes through our pets' minds as they interact with us, but this book is the best, most realistic discussion I've come across. It is honest and doesn't take any questionable authority. And it makes a great read for people who are somewhat intellectual but are bored stiff by the likes of "Nature".
I was also happy to learn that Marc D. Hauser is a homeboy of mine... I wasn't exactly a Pit Punk, but in my college days I spent a lot of time in that area - in the Film Archives in particular. I wonder how close we came to crossing paths.
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