Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
Marc D. Hauser: Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think [2000]

Only a few of us read this book, but most of those who did liked it quite a lot.

Scott especially appreciated Hauser's caution. There is a tremendous tendency among writers to anthropomorphize animals, and therefore what is needed most of all by those investigating the mental life of animals is a real determination not to jump to conclusions!. Hauser demonstrated such a determination, which is very much to his credit.

It is difficult to come up with experiments that will shed light on what animals are thinking, and Hauser frequently notes the clever and elegant experiments that researchers have thought up. But at the same time he also often mentions the limitations of those experiments, and the further experiments that should have been made. As such, this book should be required reading for everyone doing work in ethology. Seeing how your fellow investigators have slipped up is an excellent cautionary tale!

Barbara thought that the book had too many petty details, and that we don't need this sort of scientific delving in a popular work. But many of the rest of us felt these details and the discussion of the precise conclusions that are justified by the various experiments are quite valuable. Rosie said the book was very well written, and that she totally enjoyed it.

Kirby's reaction was more complex. Though he enjoyed the numerous anecdotes, he said he "hated it" at first because of its style—though it was better towards the end. At the same time he gave it a rather high rating of 7. Our group average for the book, on a scale of 0 to 10, was 6.8.

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