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on 9 April 2003
“We share the planet with thinking animals. Each species with its uniquely sculpted mind, endowed by nature and shaped by evolution is capable of meeting the most fundamental challenges that the physical and psychological world presents. Although the human mind leaves a characteristically different imprint on the planet, we are certainly not alone in this process”
This is the conclusion that Marc Hauser reached at the end of his book: Wild Minds, what animals really think.
The book in it’s essence is comprised of three main parts: Universal knowledge (Part I), Nature’s Psychologists (Part II) and Minds in Society (Part III), each of which are divided into further categories. From the outset at least, this gives the text a ‘reference book’ appearance and feel, though on completion of the book it did feel more like you had just completed a general reading book.
Throughout, Hauser cites many theories and studies that are performed on a variety of different animals. From Elephants to Chimps to Desert Ants, the reader is given a wide spectrum of examples. These examples are shown alongside human development allowing for a comparison of abilities to be shown.
One of the most favourable things I found throughout the chapters in this book was the clever use of humour. For example, in chapter 5 when trying to ascertain whether Cotton-top Tamarins had self-recognition, Hauser describes how tempting their Punk white hair was. He then details how he and his colleagues used manic panic hair dye in flamingo pink, lagoon blue and apple green to see if the tamarins would recognise themselves in a mirror. This image cannot help but make you smile.
A further example to this comes from the use of the Flintstones characters Fred and Barney to illustrate reciprocal altruism and the character Z from the Disney animation Antz to illustrate population rules and behaviour. The use of these cartoon characters provides the text with a light hearted feel, and prevents the reader from becoming lost in scientific knowledge, as can too often happen with factual books.
The text is written in a way that does not require any current knowledge of the subject of Animal Psychology. Hauser provides background to the topics before entering into theoretical and research explanations. Anyone with an interest in animal development and behaviour should enjoy this read. This is not to say that the book is simple. Readers with current knowledge will also take enjoyment from reading this book.
After reading this book, the question of what animals really think is not wholly answered. Whilst you are given a wide ranging view of the actions and behaviours of many animals Hauser consistently closes topics with question after question. However, this could simply be a reflection of what we in fact know. As Hauser himself points out, questioning ‘What it is like to be an X’ cannot be answered by science, as science relies on objective criteria and empirical evidence. Whilst you can describe what an animal does, and make assumptions as to why, you cannot with any certainty say what they are thinking and sensing. These questions therefore serve to enhance your curiosity making you want more information on the subject.
Overall this is both an informative and enjoyable read. With reference to the quote made by Hauser printed at the start of this review, the book has left this same view in my mind. It is clear that on this planet we are accompanied by a wealth of intelligent thinking animals that operate in a manner of different ways to meet the challenges of the physical and psychological world that they encounter!
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on 11 October 2011
The book arrived quicker than predicted and was in better condition than the description said. Overall I'm very happy with the product and it will be very helpful for my degree.
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on 8 December 2000
immensely enjoyed this book which was set out in a very easily readable format with subsections clearly headed, adn often intrigueingly titled! I am studying A level psychology and hope to go on to do a degree at Oxford in Experimental Psychology so I have been advised to read as widely as possible and this is by far the most accessible book I have read. It expanded the knowledge I had gained about animal behaviour and cognitive processes and proved an interesting extension with regards to the actual experiments that have been carried out to test animal's cognitive abilities. The only difficulties I had with this book were actually visualising some of the experiments but with a little lateral thinking (and occasionally a pad of paper and pen!) I managed to work it out.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in psychology. I enjoyed it a lot!
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2012
a great book as it is a review and critique of many different animal research studies but put into sensical, readable and understandable format for the lay person.
although very scientifically based, the book is written in a way which means it is not too highbrow nor insutingly simple.
a great intoduction to the ways in which animals mind's work, the ample references mean that any particular works can be followed up on if desired.
thought-provoking and suprising, a great intro into the world and workings of the animal brain.
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on 18 April 2003
This is really great for light reading if you own pets yourself or you are a interested in how the animal mind compares to our own. You don't need to have a high understanding of science terminology to enjoy this fascinating insight into the world of animals and how they might view us.
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