Open in the App Open in the App Open in the App
Get the key ideas from

Beyond Words

What Animals Think and Feel

By Carl Safina
18-minute read
Audio available
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina

Beyond Words (2015) is an explanation of the animal world’s propensity for thought and feeling. These blinks walk you through the complex societies of the natural world and explain how animals think, experience real emotion and learn.

  • Anyone interested in animals
  • Pet owners
  • People who think humans are unique in nature

Carl Safina holds the endowed chair for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University and is also a staff member of the Alan Alda Center for Communication Science. He has published in National Geographic as well as the New York Times and hosts a PBS series.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from

Beyond Words

What Animals Think and Feel

By Carl Safina
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina
Synopsis

Beyond Words (2015) is an explanation of the animal world’s propensity for thought and feeling. These blinks walk you through the complex societies of the natural world and explain how animals think, experience real emotion and learn.

Key idea 1 of 11

We share some characteristics with animals, but their minds are entirely different.

We all know the term “puppy dog eyes” and most of us have felt a surge of emotion at the sight of a pooch wearing this seemingly sad expression. But can dogs really feel emotion?

Actually, anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism are huge roadblocks to seeing animals as they truly are. That’s because scientists are trained to observe and aren’t meant to attribute human characteristics to other beings, or in other words to anthropomorphize them.

A scientist could say that an elephant stood between her child and a hyena, but would shy away from saying she did so to protect the infant. After all, there could be another reason.

And anthropocentrism?

That’s the idea that humans are uniquely capable of feeling and thinking. This is major, because if other animals can’t feel or think like us, then why should they have any rights?

So, a better way to view animals is by acknowledging that they have minds, albeit minds of their own. For example, thanks to their superb hearing, an elephant will notice an approaching truck or a herd of animals long before a human does. As a result, they might move way before their handler even spots something coming. Failing to acknowledge this fact makes it easy to misinterpret elephant behavior.

Therefore it’s key to acknowledge the differences between humans and animals but also those between all creatures on an individual basis. That’s because every human is the same but different – and that’s also true for all other species.

For instance, humans have a long common history with other animals and therefore share common roots, but we have also diverged from them in a variety of ways. Nonetheless, we still share goals like those of survival, reproduction and finding food as well as shelter. Given all of these commonalities, the idea that animals can’t think or feel is totally absurd.

But how can we prove that they can?

Key ideas in this title

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.