There exists an undeniable chasm between the capacities of humans and those of animals. Our minds have spawned civilisations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, whereas even our closest animal relatives sit unobtrusively in their dwindling habitats. Yet despite longstanding debates, the nature of this apparent gap has remained unclear. What exactly is the difference between our minds and theirs?
In The Gap, psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose. Drawing on two decades of research on apes, children, and human evolution, he surveys the abilities most often cited as uniquely human language, intelligence, morality, culture, theory of mind, and mental time travel and finds that two traits account for most of the ways in which our minds appear so distinct: Namely, our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on scenarios, and our insatiable drive to link our minds together. These two traits explain how our species was able to amplify qualities that we inherited in parallel with our animal counterparts; transforming animal communication into language, memory into mental time travel, sociality into mind reading, problem solving into abstract reasoning, traditions into culture, and empathy into morality.
Suddendorf concludes with the provocative suggestion that our unrivalled status may be our own creation and that the gap is growing wider not so much because we are becoming smarter but because we are killing off our closest intelligent animal relatives.
Weaving together the latest findings in animal behaviour, child development, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience, this book will change the way we think about our place in nature. A major argument for reconsidering what makes us human, The Gap is essential reading for anyone interested in our evolutionary origins and our relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom.
Reviewed by 1 customer
Displaying review 1
Good read to stimulate and educate a broader perspective on how and why humans have evolved the way we have, and what that means about our place in the world. All this is presented in an very entertaining German humour with lots of little interesting side notes which add greater depth and enjoyment to the sometimes heavy reading.
A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Top 10 Fall Science Title "A rewarding, thought-provoking journey... Mr. Suddendorf cuts an entertaining swath through a thicket of research studies on primate cognition...The author's style is not only consistently interesting and informative but at times delightfully playful... a welcome addition to the growing literature explaining science to the intelligent layperson." --Wall Street Journal "Fascinating...enjoyable...would make [a] marvellous gift." --Nature "This is a thought-provoking book that gives new meaning to the phrase 'know thyself'--making it clear the endeavour should go beyond navel-gazing to ponder the larger significance of being human." --New Scientist "Beautifully written, well researched and thought provoking, The Gap searches for key differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, and presents a balanced overview of the current status of our understanding of the mental abilities of animals. I found it fascinating and strongly recommend it to everyone who is curious as to how we have evolved to become the dominant species in the world today. Thank you, Thomas Suddendorf, for writing this book." --Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder, The Jane Goodall Institute, and UN Messenger of Peace "[A] fine new book." --Weekly Standard "An excellent work which probably stands alone in its field." --Richard Leakey "[A] sure-handed, fascinating book." --Scientific American Mind "Thought-provoking." --Top 10 Science and Tech Books for November, The Guardian (UK) "Wonderful... important and beautifully written." --Journal of the History of Biology "Fascinating reading... A fine example of science made accessible for general readers, combining history, personal anecdotes, clear accounts of research and a broad picture of human evolution." --Kirkus Reviews "Sweeping, sharply argued, and exceptionally entertaining, The Gap tells a story that may turn out to be one of the great scientific discoveries of the century. Thomas Suddendorf is one of the world leaders in the study of the evolution of the human mind. His analysis of the 'gap' is brilliant, a veritable eye-opener. This book expands your mind. You can feel it as you read it. Begin with the first chapter. It alone is worth more than the price of the total opus." --Endel Tulving, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Toronto, and author of Elements of Episodic Memory "A provocative and entertaining gem of a book." --Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Cambridge University, and author of The Science of Evil "In this deep, illuminating investigation of the human condition, Thomas Suddendorf artfully brings the latest data from cognitive science and ethology to bear on the Greek adage: 'know thyself.'A must-read for anyone interested in evolution and the origins of humanity." --Stanislas Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain "With the sure-handedness of a leading scientist and the love of man and of animals of a true humanist, Suddendorf takes a close look at what makes humans unique. I learned a heck of a lot from this important book, and so will you." --Oren Harman, Professor of the History of Science, Bar Ilan University, and author of The Price of Altruism "The Gap brilliantly combines scholarship with accessibility, explaining often difficult ideas in plain language. This is popular science at its best--erudite, entertaining, and wonderfully informative." --Michael Corballis, Professor of Psychology, University of Auckland, and author of The Recursive Mind "In this fascinating discussion of the gap between us and other species, Suddendorf poses a series of questions about what makes us uniquely human. The reader is taken on a tour of intriguing and sometimes bizarre research tales interwoven with the author's observations of his own children and other animals. Written in a friendly, accessible style, this book is a must read for anyone interested in who we are and why--or if--we are special." --Niki Harre, author of Psychology for a Better World "This wonderful book shows that the human mind is unique in surprising ways that we should treasure more highly--but that we have a standard ape mind in many other ways that we vainly assume are exceptional. It offers a new kind of evidence-based self-esteem for our species, both humbling and ennobling. Suddendorf is a leading evolutionary psychologist and primatologist whose ground-breaking research has shown how humans are masters of building imaginary scenarios and linking our minds together socially. Here he makes his case in a fun, wise, balanced, and accessible way that any thinking human will love." --Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist, University of New Mexico, and author of The Mating Mind and Spent
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Number Of Pages: 358
Published: 12th November 2013
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.6 x 3.0
Weight (kg): 0.59
Edition Number: 1