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Do Animals Think? [Hardcover]

Clive D. L. Wynne
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Book Description

March 1 2004 0691113114 978-0691113111 1

Does your dog know when you've had a bad day? Can your cat tell that the coffee pot you left on might start a fire? Could a chimpanzee be trained to program your computer? In this provocative book, noted animal expert Clive Wynne debunks some commonly held notions about our furry friends. It may be romantic to ascribe human qualities to critters, he argues, but it's not very realistic. While animals are by no means dumb, they don't think the same way we do. Contrary to what many popular television shows would have us believe, animals have neither the "theory-of-mind" capabilities that humans have (that is, they are not conscious of what others are thinking) nor the capacity for higher-level reasoning. So, in Wynne's view, when Fido greets your arrival by nudging your leg, he's more apt to be asking for dinner than commiserating with your job stress.

That's not to say that animals don't possess remarkable abilities--and Do Animals Think? explores countless examples: there's the honeybee, which not only remembers where it found food but communicates this information to its hivemates through an elaborate dance. And how about the sonar-guided bat, which locates flying insects in the dark of night and devours lunch on the wing?

Engagingly written, Do Animals Think? takes aim at the work of such renowned animal rights advocates as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall for falsely humanizing animals. Far from impoverishing our view of the animal kingdom, however, it underscores how the world is richer for having such a diversity of minds--be they of the animal or human variety.


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From Publishers Weekly

Animal expert Wynne (Animal Cognition: The Mental Life of Animals), an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida, delivers a detailed yet enjoyably written exploration of recent discoveries of modern animal behavior. In answering the question whether animals "think" or have the consciousness of self that humans do, his main point is simple: "We don't have to pretend that some species have consciousness equivalent to ours. They don't and they don't need it to matter to us and deserve our attention." Wynne is clearly arguing against the view of animal rights advocates such as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall who ascribe human attributes to animals. But Wynne is no reactionary—he strongly sympathizes with those who wish to improve the treatment of animals. But he forcefully argues that what animals may "know"—for example, the honeybee recognizes time of day—is "coded in the connections of the neurons; they are not conscious ideas." However, in contending that "the psychological abilities that make human culture possible... are almost entirely lacking in any other species," he delightfully presents the many remarkable abilities of such animals as the bat, which "sees" using echolocation, "one of the most astonishing discoveries made about any animal's world in the last fifty years"; and dolphins, who use a form of sonar. It helps his arguments that Wynne is often as entertaining as he is erudite ("Like journalists listening in for excitement on police radio frequencies, dolphins channel-surf through the sound frequencies fish use").
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"[An] enjoyably written exploration of recent discoveries of modern animal behavior. . . . Wynne is clearly arguing against the view of animal rights advocates such as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall who ascribe human attributes to animals. But Wynne is no reactionary--he strongly sympathizes with those who wish to improve the treatment of animals. . . . It helps his arguments that Wynne is often as entertaining as he is erudite."--Publishers Weekly

"In this critical account of selected research, Clive Wynne takes aim at over-sentimental anthropomorphism, particularly on the part of animal-rights advocates. He argues that the degree to which animals are like us cannot be the measure of how much they are worthy of our respect and protection. . . . All this material is presented in a clear informal and entertaining way, enlivened by historical asides."--Sara J. Shettleworth, Nature

"Wynne has a pleasant writing style and a knack for engaging the reader. . . . [H]is book offers many insightful descriptions of animal behavior. . . . He seems to take delight in animals, and possesses great knowledge about them, yet he prefers them at arm's length. The constant message is that animals are not people."--Frans B.M. de Waal, Natural History

"Wynne's new book provides a timely corrective to many myths about animal minds, without detracting from the wonders of the natural world."--Nicola S. Clayton, Science

"[Wynne] is a lively writer with a congenial sense of humor, an obvious passion for truly understanding the minds of animals, and a sincere desire to come to terms with what all this means for the larger philosophical and ethical questions about the place of man and animals in the world."--Stephen Budiansky, Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science

"A fun read . . . packed with clever experiments, intriguing anecdotes, and a delight in the diversity of animal behavior."--Sy Montgomery, Discover

"Readers will delight in this insightful, well-referenced book."--Choice

"Lucid and witty. . . . Mr. Wynne makes a compelling case against true rationality in animals, but he resists the temptation to reduce animals to mere machines,' as Descartes famously did; he is too seized with wonder at the marvels of animal behavior to adopt so barren a model. In the end, Mr. Wynne prefers to accept our fellow animals for what they are, as they are."--Eric Ormsby, New York Sun

"An intelligent and balanced discussion of our attitudes towards other species and what (if anything) animals think. . . . A refreshingly skeptical and pugnacious investigation."--P.D. Smith, The Guardian (UK)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Lively and thought-provoking May 3 2004
Format:Hardcover
With our tendency to anthropomorphize everything, from playful puppies to temperamental automobiles, it stands to reason that the animal mind is a topic of hot debate.
Literally. Animal rights activists have torched and bombed facilities associated with medical research or product testing on animals. Wynne finds these zealots baffling. Why, he wonders, focus on researchers rather than farmers, who, for sheer numbers, do away with a lot more animals? The Animal Liberation Front, he notes, in 2001 documented "the rescue of 5,000 animals, not one of them a pig. Why not?"
People simply do not bring an objective eye to bear on the subject of animal minds and that includes scientists. In lively and provocative style, Wynne, psychologist and professor, attempts to remedy this. He devotes chapters to four well-studied species: the honeybee, the pigeon, the bat and the dolphin. Others, particularly apes, also make frequent appearances.
He examines what makes these animals different from us, and what we have in common. What is special about these creatures? What is it like to be them? Are animals self-aware? How can we know? Chapters are devoted to the faculties that - supposedly - set us apart and above the animal kingdom: reasoning, language, and "the ability to put oneself imaginatively into the position of another - what we would call 'theory of mind.' "
No one argues for the intelligence of bees. Yet the dance of the honeybee conveys detailed information about the whereabouts of high-quality food. The bee knows her food is better than what her sisters are bringing in because unloader bees serve her quickly. Mediocre loads have to wait. But some bees, even when informed their offering is hardly worth unloading, do their dance anyway.
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Amazon.com: 2.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively and thought-provoking May 3 2004
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With our tendency to anthropomorphize everything, from playful puppies to temperamental automobiles, it stands to reason that the animal mind is a topic of hot debate.
Literally. Animal rights activists have torched and bombed facilities associated with medical research or product testing on animals. Wynne finds these zealots baffling. Why, he wonders, focus on researchers rather than farmers, who, for sheer numbers, do away with a lot more animals? The Animal Liberation Front, he notes, in 2001 documented "the rescue of 5,000 animals, not one of them a pig. Why not?"
People simply do not bring an objective eye to bear on the subject of animal minds and that includes scientists. In lively and provocative style, Wynne, psychologist and professor, attempts to remedy this. He devotes chapters to four well-studied species: the honeybee, the pigeon, the bat and the dolphin. Others, particularly apes, also make frequent appearances.
He examines what makes these animals different from us, and what we have in common. What is special about these creatures? What is it like to be them? Are animals self-aware? How can we know? Chapters are devoted to the faculties that - supposedly - set us apart and above the animal kingdom: reasoning, language, and "the ability to put oneself imaginatively into the position of another - what we would call `theory of mind.' "
No one argues for the intelligence of bees. Yet the dance of the honeybee conveys detailed information about the whereabouts of high-quality food. The bee knows her food is better than what her sisters are bringing in because unloader bees serve her quickly. Mediocre loads have to wait. But some bees, even when informed their offering is hardly worth unloading, do their dance anyway. They are able to reason that near and plentiful is worthwhile even if the quality is below average.
Most, perhaps all, animals learn from experience. Even the sea slug learns to anticipate a poke. But reasoning was thought to be the province of humans until monkeys were shown to do it in the 1980s. A few years later even pigeons demonstrated the ability to make fairly complex deductions.
But then, a setback. Monkeys who could negotiate complicated patterns to predict the next in a series, were unable to judge where a peanut would fall through a curved tube. Although the simple mechanism was right in front of them, they still assumed the peanut would fall in a straight line. Wynne deconstructs these experiments to show how the simple logic involved for the animal in each step contributes to a complex task, while what seems to us the simplest diversion of a curve could stymie another primate, unable to make the leap.
The language discussion naturally devotes a lot of its energy to ape studies, which seem to show that apes can learn to use sign or symbol language. Wynne debunks this by giving us chunks of original data alongside the researcher's conclusions, showing a clear bias for enthusiasm. Readers of the popular books he refers to may counter with numerous endearing or amazing chimp anecdotes, but Wynne would probably agree that these show a complex and fascinating animal, while not a user of language.
Chimps don't have the brain mechanisms for language, but we don't have the bat's echolocation or the dolphin's sonar. He likens the relationship of species to a similarity sandwich with commonalities in a squishy middle, dissimilarities on the bottom and qualities unique to each species on top.
Wynne is clear about his own biases - he is basically a skeptic, with an open mind. He has a great appreciation for animals, which does not depend on them being like us. And, like most scientists, he relishes demolishing his colleagues, particularly the ones who, like himself, have written books for the general reader.
His writing is clear, well-organized and witty. The jury is still out on whether (and what) animals think, but Wynne's book is a highly entertaining and informative contribution to the debate.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Calling all Cartesians July 17 2011
By George N. Bates - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a well-written but specious book by a man on a mission. That mission is to advance the notion that, in all of the animal kingdom, humans alone are truly conscious; because consciousness, if you believe Prof. Wynne, is predicated on human language. And that anyone who thinks otherwise, from Griffin to Goodall to the average dog or cat owner, is delusional, subconsciously projecting their own emotional states and cognitive abilities onto "dumb" animals. Based on such assumptions the author questions everything from the ability of nonhuman animals to feel fear, anger, frustration, love or jealosy, to experience pleasure, and even to perceive pain. This worldview has all the freshness of a moldering corpse -- a 17th Century one to be exact. Rene Descartes promoted similar views, only he based his on religious dogma while Wynne posits, with an equivalent paucity of scientific evidence, the primacy of human language.
Discredited during the Age of Darwin, this conceit that animals other than humans are unconscious automatons is periodically disinterred -- like an ober-vampire that can't be killed no matter how many stakes are driven into its heart -- and peddled by a new generation of sophists: first Watson, followed by Skinner, and now Wynne. In an era when cognitive ethology has supplanted behaviorism as the dominant paradigm, Prof. Wynne swims against the current; a very small fish but one who occupies an even smaller pool. Like the doubters who don't believe that AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, or that smoking causes cancer, or that anthropogenic climate change is upon us, Prof. Wynne grasps for the seat at the table reserved for the contrarian position, thereby insuring frequent interview requests from credulous
journalists trying to cover all possible points of view, even the most outlandish.
It would be easy to dismiss Prof. Wynne's stated views as obsolescent and so much self-serving poppycock except that he has no hesitation about employing them to disparage and undermine justified public concerns about animal suffering. This plays directly into the hands of those sinister entities that profit from animal abuse and would understandably prefer to not be encumbered by animal welfare regulations as they go about their nefarious activities. Voltaire wrote, "if we believe absurdities, we will commit atrocities." And one of the leading purveyors today of just such dangerous absurdities is Clive Wynne.
Prof. Wynne is now reportedly focusing his research attentions on the comparative behavior of wolves and domestic dogs, a field already amply picked over by everyone from Lorenz to Miklosi. Elsewhere, Prof. Wynne has confidently assured cat owners that the reason cats crawl into their owners' laps is all due to a simple thermotropism; a claim anyone who has actually lived with indoor domestic cats knows to be ludicrous. So, canid enthusiasts can, no doubt, look forward to another round of similar dubious speculations in Prof. Wynne's next book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars narrow minded Aug. 27 2009
By sister - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I looked forward to reading this book and was so disappointed with it. I found the author's attitude to be quite narrowminded. I was particularly offended by his comments on whether animals feel pain or not, and his argument that for the greater good it was OK to continue with animal experimentation left me feeling nothing but distate for his ideas.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Example of Scholarly Speciesism May 31 2009
By Drew Hensley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First of all, this is not the author's best book. His best book is a slim, concise textbook called Animal Cognition. I must admit the author is an excellent writer. His thoughts are clearly expressed without academic jargon. His textbook on animal intelligence is probably the most readable textbook on this subject on the market. However, his analysis is awful. For example, concerning the mark mirror recognition test on chimps, he argues that mirror recogntion does not indicate self-awareness, because one could imagine a robot being programed to identify itself in a mirror?? What a stupid remark! His critique of mirror recognition in dolphins is equally pathetic. He says nothing about positive results (disputed results, however) from research on birds, dogs and pigs. This scholar has been known to admit that he has a bias against the whole notion of animal intelligence. In other words, he is a confessing speciesist. His interpretation of signs of self-awareness in other animals is that they have an "own-body concept." I see this as a clear dodge, and in fact I see the whole book in this light. What you have here is a conservative apologetic for speciesism. You will notice how annoyed the author is at the concept of apes and humans being genetically near identical. He actually attempts to argue that this universally accepted conclusion is incorrect. In short, I find this scientist to be oddly cynical and narrow-minded. His work is hyper-critical and selective. He is basically avoiding the best research, and what he focuses on he focuses on with an eye towards shreding it to bits.

Chapter 9, the final chapter, may be the most disturbing part of the entire book. Here you see a scientist deliberating about whether animals experience pain, and you are left with the impression that he really does not think they do, or at least has his doubts. I would like to provide you with some very unfortunate quotes as a way of illustrating the author's attitude:

"Let me ask again, How do we know animals feel pain? Singer's answer, the standard answer, is because they act the way we do when we feel pain. Our dog Benji ... walked into the side of a parked car once ... Didn't seem to bother him at all." P.240

In other words an animal's physical reactions don't necessarily represent the experience of the animal. Here is another good one on the same point:

"When organs are removed from the brain dead ... doctors commonly give anesthetics. Why bother with anesthetics if there is no chance that the individual is conscious? Because without them the body reacts violently ... So this adds a further complication to the calculus of pain that Singer wants us to engage in: outward signs may correlate little with inner agonies." P.240

Please see my review of Dr. Wynne's Animal Cognition.

I would like to recommend some better books (all very readable) on this subject:

Animal Learning & Cognition 3rd Ed by John Pearce
Animal Intelligence by Zhanna Reznikova
The Cognitive Animal (multiple authors)
The Smartest Animals On The Planet (written for non-science students) by Sally Boysen
Cognition, Evolution & Behavior by Sara Shettleworth

Also worth reading:

The Ethology of Domestic Animals 2nd Ed by P. Jensen
27 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The great divide April 25 2005
By Marc Bekoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Do animals think? Well, surely some do, you may think. And an increasing

number of researchers across disciplines would agree with you: They are

trying to determine hownot whetheranimals consciously process information

about their social and nonsocial environments.

What is going on in the minds of animals? Do they have desires and

beliefs? Zealots abound at both ends of a spectrum that ranges from those

who believe that animals are merely thoughtless robotic automatons to

those who argue that all are thinking creatures with rich cognitive lives.

I imagine that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: A number of animals

have the capacity for thinking about certain situations and showing

flexible, adaptable behavior, whereas others may behave reflexively, with

little or no thought at all.

Psychologist Clive D. L. Wynne takes a firm behaviorist stance on the

issue in his new book, Do Animals Think? He argues that animals, even

those commonly believed to have active minds and a good deal of conscious

thoughtcompanion animals, dolphins and great apesreally don't think much

about anything. Here, and also in a brief communication and an essay

published in the March 11 and April 8 issues of Nature, Wynne says that we

should be very cautious about ascribing consciousness to animals and that

anthropomorphic explanations have no place in the study of animal

behavior.

I should confess right away that I'm a member of the opposing campa rich

cognitivist. Thus I was skeptical of Wynne's position from the outset. But

I was also open to his arguments. And I did find some of the information

he presents about bees, bats and other animals to be both fascinating and

thoughtprovoking.

Unfortunately, Wynne's adversarial tone and narrow choice of data made

this book a difficult read for me. Throughout he takes potshots at

wellknown scientists, philosophers and advocates of animal protection:

Roger Fouts especially, and also the late Donald Griffin, Sue

SavageRumbaugh, Frans de Waal, Jane Goodall, Peter Singer, Steven Wise and

even Linda McCartney. Wynne criticizes them for using questionable

information about animal sentience to support the view that we should be

deeply concerned with animal wellbeing. The book opens with an account of

violence against humans by a member of the Animal Liberation Front, and it

ends on a similar note, with Wynne criticizing animal protectionists for

flawed thinking. He claims that he longs for the certainty of those who

attribute consciousness and the ability to experience pain to many

animals. But in fact, he advocates the opposite point of view with that

same level of certainty.

Although Wynne admits that we do not know very much about animal thinking,

this does not stop him from arguing that his reductionist views are

correct. He believes that the differences between animals and humans are

greater, and more significant, than the similarities. But are they? Does

Wynne include all animals or only some species in his arguments for mental

dissimilarity? He claims that

The psychological abilities that make human culture possibleenthusiasm to

imitate others, language, and the ability to place oneself imaginatively

into another's perspective on eventsare almost entirely lacking in any

other species.

What does "almost" mean? Nobody claims that other animals are identical to

us, but arguments invoking evolutionary continuity leave room for the

conclusion that the differences are, in fact, smalldifferences in degree

rather than differences in kind. Many observations show that members of

some species imitate other animals, empathize with them, are able to take

another's perspective in certain situations (there is neurobiological

evidence to support the conclusion that some animals have a theory of

mind), and have culture and rather sophisticated patterns of

communication.

The behaviorist view is little concerned with evolution. It also fails to

recognize that the behavior of many animals is far too flexible and

situationspecific to be explained in terms of simplified stimulusresponse

contingencies. Marked withinspecies variability is quite common, and this

adaptive variability often (although not always) lends itself readily to

"cognitive" explanations invoking consciousness, intentions and beliefs.

It remains to be shown how large the differences are between humans and

other animals. Although Wynne claims to recognize that not enough data are

available to make definitive statements, he offers them nonetheless,

arriving at some sweeping generalizations. He argues for the objective

study of behavior, butironicallymuch of his book serves to illustrate that

science isn't valuefree and that every scientist has an agenda.

Scientists who are skeptical about research on animal thinking typically

criticize it for being anecdotal and anthropomorphic. They claim that

anecdotes don't provide sufficient data (a view with which I and other

rich cognitivists generally agree) and that anthropomorphic explanations

are extremely imprecise. Wynne favors reductionistic stimulusresponse

explanations over ones that appeal to such notions as consciousness,

intentions and beliefs. However, he doesn't offer any scientific support

for his position. And in fact there is no empirical evidence that the

explanations he favors are better for understanding and predicting

behavior than those he eschews.

Many who, like Wynne, favor mechanistic explanations have not spent much

time watching freeranging animals. Were they to do so, the complexity and

flexibility of animal behavior would force them to realize that no simple

explanatory scheme will be correct all of the time. What is more, they

would appreciate better how much more there still is to learn about animal

behavior.

Almost daily, surprising new findings crop up: New Caledonian crows are

better at making and using tools than many primates; fish show culture and

likely feel pain; a dog named Rico knows about 200 words and can figure

out, through exclusion learning, that an unfamiliar sound refers to an

unfamiliar toy. So it's best to keep an open mind. The fact that an animal

doesn't do something in one context doesn't necessarily mean that it won't

be able to do it in another.

Returning at the end of the book to the theme of his opening pages, Wynne

expresses heavy skepticism about whether animals feel pain and whether

that should influence how we treat them. On the one hand, he praises

philosopher Jeremy Bentham's claim that the key question for determining

the moral and legal standing of animals is "Can they suffer?"not "Can they

reason?" or "Can they talk?" But on the other hand, Wynne notes that even

if we could measure pain in animals, "it is still not clear that this

would tell us what to do and to whom." Feeling pain is not, in his view,

the only criterion for deciding whether animals are worthy of our concern.

He says, revealingly, that animals "are valuable to us because of who we

are, not what they are."

Unfortunately, a great divide remains between opposing camps. The

polemical tone and lack of balance in the book make it difficult for me to

recommend it as a text for a course unless it's read alongside a book that

presents a variety of views on animal thinking. And inconsistencies in the

argumentation make it hard for me to recommend it for a general audience.

I do think that the book will serve to stimulate discussion of such issues

as what it means to "know" something, how much information must be

available before we can draw reliable, sweeping conclusions, and how we

determine how certain we can be that those conclusions are correct.

Studies of animal thinking lend themselves nicely to that philosophical

exercise.
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