It’s the age old question for animal lovers: what are my pets thinking? Researcher Virginia Morell explores animal cognitive science in her new book Animal Wisdom.
From Morrell’s interview with National Geographic:
The point I try to make at the end of the book is we’re on this new frontier—we’re recognizing that there are minds in every animal around us on the planet, and how remarkable that is. I would sit and think about that: The little jumping spider in my office, the birds in my yard—everyone has a brain, their neurons are firing, they’re making decisions. If nothing else they have places to go and things to do. They’re not just stumbling through life as zombies.
Anyone who has ever given in to a dog’s pouting face watching the dinner table knows that. As Morrell points out, the field still has a long way to go:
Certainly showing animals are conscious is still a challenge: First we have to find neurons that create consciousness in people, then [we] can do comparative studies with animals. But right now we don’t have a framework in which to study emotions—it’s easier to find out if an animal can count.