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Distinguished Lecture with Prof Frans de Waal: Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?

(24 October 2017)

His first time to Durham, world-famous primatologist Prof Frans de Waal will give a Distinguished Lecture entitled ‘Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?’ on Thursday, 30 November 2017 at 5pm in room D110 (Dawson Building), followed by a drinks reception at 6pm in D104.

De Waal draws parallels between primate and human behaviour, and will discuss recent findings on animal intelligence and what it can tell us about human intelligence. De Waal is an eminent scientist and popular science author; he was voted by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People (2007), and by Discover as among 47 all-time Great Minds of Science (2011).

'The wall between human and animal intelligence is starting to look like a Swiss cheese. Whereas a mechanistic view of animals prevailed during most of last century, an undercurrent of scientists nourished a more cognitive approach, which is becoming dominant. From a Darwinian perspective, the most parsimonious assumption about closely related species is that behavioral similarity reflects psychological similarity.

Primates are now seen as political, cultural, perhaps even moral beings. This cognitive revolution has been rippling beyond the primates to include the entire animal kingdom, from tool-using crows to cooperating dolphins. Many unexpected capacities have been discovered. I will provide a general overview of the methods and findings of animal studies with an accent on primates and elephants, but also octopuses, corvids, cetaceans, and fish. The central message of this new science, known as evolutionary cognition, is one of mental continuity across all species, with human intelligence being a variety of animal intelligence.'

The event is hosted by the Departments of Psychology and Anthropology and is open to all. No booking required.

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