Animal Intelligence: From Individual to Social Cognition


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Zhanna Reznikova is less well known than Pearce or Shettleworth, but her 'Animal Intelligence' ranks with their works as one of the best serious introductions to animal cognition. Cognitive skills are linked to evolution. Learning allows animals to adapt to changes in their environment. Once animals have learnt new skills, they can apply them to survive. Their skills affect basic activities, like what to eat, who to run away from, and the multitude of decisions involved in courtship and parenting. Cognitive skills can help us to survive, but it is not only humans who are capable of using their intelligence in this way. One of  Reznikova's strengths is that she looks right across the animal kingdom, finding intelligence in insects and other invertebrates, as well as those mammals and birds usually thought of as 'smart'.

Writers who aim to understand animal cognition use insights from different academic fields, like ethology, psychology, and behavioural ecology, bringing them together to understand more of how animals think. Another great strength of this book is the way that Reznikova links ideas from these different fields, and explains them very clearly. She is very good at making complicated ideas easy to understand. It is true, this is an academic book, and Reznikova is careful to provide evidence for her assertions, as well as a long bibliography. However, 'Animal Intelligence' can be ejoyed by anyone with a serious interest in animal behaviour.