Friday, January 3, 2014
The Genius of Dogs
The Genius of Dogs; How Dogs are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods is a fascinating treatise on the research that was performed by two scientists who searched for a way to prove dognition (dog cognition) and genius in dogs. The authors point out that there are different ways to define genius, and the importance of using multi-dimensional criteria to measure intelligence and that testing must take into account that a traditional test of something such as memory must include the fact that there are different types of memory. Genius in animals must use comparisons to others within a species or between related species and it must evaluate the ability of the subject to spontaneously make inferences. There are details of amazing skills such as certain birds’ ability to hide and later retrieve tremendous numbers of seeds whereas other birds are adept at stealing what has been hidden by another bird. The authors detail the progression of experiments to evaluate intelligence and cognition but also describe the domestication of canids and its impact on dogs and their intelligence.
This erudite volume addresses the concept of intelligence in dogs and how it can be evaluated. There are interesting postulations on the cause and effect of domestication as several different species with varying degrees of interaction with humans are discussed. This thought-provoking treatise has intriguing implications for humans as well as dogs and provides plenty of references as well as anecdotal information on ways to evaluate communication techniques, how to elicit unbiased results and various hypotheses on cognition versus rote learned behavior. There are horrific allusions to the way progress in the field was suppressed in other countries although it is inspirational to read that scientific curiosity could not be completely suppressed, no matter what risk to freedom and cost of life was imposed. This is a richly textured and educational book that will definitely change the way one looks at learning as well as the roles that dogs play in our society.
© Night Owl Reviews
I received a copy of this title in return for an honest review.
Fair warning, this could be used as a textbook because it is very detailed but the authors have a very readable style. It is just a very densely fact-packed book so don't expect to read it quickly!