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Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries Of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior [Paperback]

Temple Grandin , Catherine Johnson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 4 2006
I don't know if people will ever be able to talk to animals the way Doctor Doolittle could, or whether animals will be able to talk back. Maybe science will have something to say about that. But I do know people can learn to "talk" to animals, and to hear what animals have to say, better than they do now. --From Animals in Translation

Why would a cow lick a tractor? Why are collies getting dumber? Why do dolphins sometimes kill for fun? How can a parrot learn to spell? How did wolves teach man to evolve? Temple Grandin draws upon a long, distinguished career as an animal scientist and her own experiences with autism to deliver an extraordinary message about how animals act, think, and feel. She has a perspective like that of no other expert in the field, which allows her to offer unparalleled observations and groundbreaking ideas.

People with autism can often think the way animals think, putting them in the perfect position to translate "animal talk." Grandin is a faithful guide into their world, exploring animal pain, fear, aggression, love, friendship, communication, learning, and, yes, even animal genius. The sweep of Animals in Translation is immense and will forever change the way we think about animals.

*includes a Behavior and Training Troubleshooting Guide Among its provocative ideas, the book:
  • argues that language is not a requirement for consciousness--and that animals do have consciousness
  • applies the autism theory of "hyper-specificity" to animals, showing that animals and autistic people are so sensitive to detail that they "can't see the forest for the trees"--a talent as well as a "deficit"
  • explores the "interpreter" in the normal human brain that filters out detail, leaving people blind to much of the reality that surrounds them--a reality animals and autistic people see, sometimes all too clearly
  • explains how animals have "superhuman" skills: animals have animal genius
  • compares animals to autistic savants, declaring that animals may in fact be autistic savants, with special forms of genius that normal people do not possess and sometimes cannot even see
  • examines how humans and animals use their emotions to think, to decide, and even to predict the future 
  • reveals the remarkable abilities of handicapped people and animals 
  • maintains that the single worst thing you can do to an animal is to make it feel afraid

Frequently Bought Together

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries Of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior + Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals + Temple Grandin
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Philosophers and scientists have long wondered what goes on in the minds of animals, and this fascinating study gives a wealth of illuminating insights into that mystery. Grandin, an animal behavior expert specializing in the design of humane slaughter systems, is autistic, and she contends that animals resemble autistic people in that they think visually rather than linguistically and perceive the world as a jumble of mesmerizing details rather than a coherent whole. Animals—cows, say, on their way through a chute—are thus easily spooked by novelties that humans see as trivialities, such as high-pitched noises, drafts and dangling clothes. Other animals accomplish feats of obsessive concentration; squirrels really do remember where each acorn is buried. The portrait she paints of the mammalian mind is both alien and familiar; she shows that beasts are capable of sadistic cruelty, remorse, superstition and surprising discernment (in one experiment, pigeons were taught to distinguish between early period Picasso and Monet). Grandin (Thinking in Pictures) and Johnson (coauthor of Shadow Syndromes) deploy a simple, lucid style to synthesize a vast amount of research in neurology, cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology, supplementing it with Grandin's firsthand observations of animal behavior and her own experiences with autism, engaging anecdotes about how animals interact with each other and their masters, and tips on how to pick and train house pets. The result is a lively and absorbing look at the world from animals' point of view.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Grandin is well known as an autistic person who works with animals, redefining both what is possible for autistics and the way we look at how animals think. With coauthor Johnson, trustee of an autism research group and mother of autistic sons, Grandin explores the world of animal thought and compares it with both how typical humans and autistic humans think. Grandin began to realize during her years of education that animals and autistics process the world in the same way: as discrete pictures, sounds, and smells--in other words, they do not convert experiences into abstract thought or language. In telling her story, and then in discussing different aspects of animal behavior and perception, Grandin illustrates her arguments with descriptions from her own research, the research of other animal behaviorists and psychologists, and anecdotal stories about animal behavior. This fascinating book will teach readers to see as animals see, to be a little more visual and a little less verbal, and, as a unique analysis of animal behavior, it belongs in all libraries.^B Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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People who aren't autistic always ask me about the moment I realized I could understand the way animals think. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Landmark book. March 12 2005
Animals in Translation: Using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior.
I will never think about animals, and about autism, and about "normal" people quite the same way again. This is a landmark book.
The book is badly organized. You will have to read every page. You may not be interested in the long pages where she talks about slaughter houses, but then right in the middle of a paragraph you suddenly come across a bit of wisdom that you would not want to have missed. Right then you must underline it or you will never find it back again.
The upshot of this book is that animals do not have a fully functioning frontal lobe, nor do autistic people, and she tells us throughout the book what that is like, over and over again until you start to get a deep understanding of what it is like. We get a better understanding of ourselves too. The frontal lobe "puts it all together", and having put it all together, we race over the details like a speed boat over water. We do not see the details. An autistic person on the other hand, can not help but see them. He sees all the details, and only the details. He is overwhelmed by them. He sees all forty shades of brown. He can not see the forest for the trees, and more trees, and more trees. He hears every tone. He smells every odor. His life is a jumble of details. As you might expect, her book is rich in details about her own life and about all the animals she knows and when you emerge at the other end of the book, you feel immersed. Being a "normal" person you can not remember all the details, but you "know" something about these people's lives, and about animals' lives in a way you could never get from a text book. And yet, at the same time, she also has a doctorate and she does her own research.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By edrm
To be quite honest, at first, I couldn't associate autism with animal behavior. However, I felt as if animals had taught human beings how animals live. And I gradually noticed something in common between people with autism and animals: Both of them are non-verbal but are able to think in pictures. Because of that sort of intuition, they are more sensitive to the surroundings than non-autistic people.

When it comes to animals, they have to cope with fear if they sense the predators coming closer. That is one of the ways to survive and ironically without fear, animals would be a target for predators. I found the example of the tragedy of fearless guppies on P.196. Perhaps for piranha fearless guppies are the easiest targets because they didn't sense any danger until they got eaten. That explains why fear is necessary to sense danger.

How about people with autism? They do have speech delay, which makes it difficult for parents to socialize them. But for autistic people, solitude is one of the ways to protect their own world. The main reason is that they are hypersensitive to normal school or office environment, which sound like the noises in construction sites. In short, they have such a terrible sensory overload that they can't stand loud noises. That's why people with autism prefer quieter places to mixing with their peers. Autistic people feel fear like animals when they recognize something unpredictable. Of course not all non-autistic people look scary to autistic ones, just in case.

Overall, I'm not sure enough what it is like to think in pictures. However, I'd say Temple Grandin knows quite well how to deal with animals because of her pros of autistic traits.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Animals in Translation is a wonderful book July 2 2005
I couldn't put it down. Ms. Grandin's thoughts on why and how she discovers what comforts and distresses animals, and how she puts things right, is refreshing. She believes her autism gives her an advantage, because she had started with no more expectation of animals' behaviour than she has of individual humans behaving like "people". Her staightforward judgment that humans be responsibile for domestic animals' quality of life AND DEATH, because we created them for our needs, has done more to alleviate animal suffering than a dozen PETA's.
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5.0 out of 5 stars stunning insight July 26 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
We as human animals understand so little of the animals we live and work with because our understanding of what we have in common has been so stunted; this book admirably builds a bridge for us in achieving that understanding, and touches something beautiful in our appreciation for all life as a result. Worth every cent - you'll have a different view of the world and of yourself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening! June 28 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Absolutely fascinating! My wife and I just adopted an abused dog and this book is helping his and our ``transistion` immensely. This is a must read for animal lovers or anyone who knows of someone with Autism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Fasinating read Jan. 8 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After meeting the author Temple in Sydney Nova scotia it was a great joy to receive her book so promptly and I enjoy her book which I know I will pick up many times to re-read.
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