Clever as a Fox: Animal Intelligence and What It Can Teach Us about Ourselves

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9780674008700: Clever as a Fox: Animal Intelligence and What It Can Teach Us about Ourselves
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Dogs are smarter than cats, dolphins and chimps are more clever than both, and we who determine the rankings top the scale--or so we think. But are we thinking clearly? To appreciate the mental abilities of the owl and the pussycat, the tortoise and the hare, requires a commitment to unraveling the nature of intelligence--a tricky and controversial proposition that Sonja Yoerg sets out to explore in this learned, lucid, and entertaining book about our complicated, often erroneous notions about animal intelligence.

With forays into evolutionary biology, behavioral science, and comparative psychology, Clever as a Fox reveals the promise and pitfalls inherent in any attempt to assess animal intelligence. Along with the concepts we deploy to define and compare intelligence, Yoerg looks at the expectations and prejudices that cloud our judgment of the animal mind, perceptions shaped as much by Aesop and Disney as by direct observation of our fellow creatures. And because such perceptions are inextricably linked with judgments of value--ideas about animal mentality have much to do with which species end up on our laps and which on our plates--this deeply revealing look at how we think about animal intelligence should help us use our own intelligence more wisely.

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About the Author:

Sonja Yoerg earned her Ph.D. in biopsychology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her research focused on the study of learning and foraging in blue jays, pigeons, kangaroo rats, and spotted hyenas, both in the lab and the field. Yoerg is also the author of the three novels published by Penguin/Berkley and spends much of her time gardening and cooking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

From Publishers Weekly:

By questioning our inadequate traditional definitions of intelligence, ethologist Yoerg, project director for the Captive Breeding Program at the University of California, leads the reader through a lively, literate book, loaded with case studies, on animal behavior, intellect and instinct. Too often, he argues, our perceptions and understanding of animals, and our feelings for and against their different ilk, are linked to cultural prejudices. We have an affinity for those we deem closer to us on the evolutionary ladder, and tend to grant primates and other mammals a higher degree of understanding and emotion than other orders of animals. Birds, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids and insects are too often perceived merely as instinct-driven living mechanisms, even though, as Yoerg points out, the tree of evolution has sprouted numerous, diverse forms of survival-related intelligence. With numerous examples based on scientific experiments and observation, combined with a wealth of anecdotal personal experiences from North America, Africa and Europe, Yoerg challenges our comfortable beliefs. This is a fast-paced read, studded with insightful perspectives ranging from behavioral authorities (Robert Yerkes, B.F. Skinner) to literary lights (George Orwell, Wallace Stevens). Specialists with an interest in ethology and animal psychology will benefit as much from this intriguing stroll through the kingdom of animal intellectual ability as the general reader. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9781582341156: Clever As a Fox : Animal Intelligence And What It Can Teach Us About Ourselves

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ISBN 10:  158234115X ISBN 13:  9781582341156
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA, 2001
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