Selected Reviews of
Clever as a Fox:
Animal Intelligence and What It Can Teach Us about Ourselves
From Booklist (Nancy Bent)
Why are we skeptical of the fact that an animal might have a better memory than we do? Yoerg uses this initial skepticism about the intellectual abilities of animals to explore the study of comparative animals' intelligence. The idea that intelligence is a "monolithic capacity, [and] that differences among species are always quantitative, variations in amount rather than kind" is a pervasive belief and one that this book does an excellent job of refuting. Different species have differing needs for intelligence, with some extremely successful species operating on "fewer neurons than they have legs". In her insightful overview of this complex field, the author quotes studies of animals as disparate as crabs, primates, parrots and humans to make her main point: there are different kinds of intelligence, evolved in the face of different environmental pressures. Leavened with humor, Yoerg's clear, logical and well-written discussion of a complex subject will lead even the casual reader in to a much better understanding of the many answers to the question “what is intelligence?”
From Publisher's 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, she 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.