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The Gap : The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals : 1st Edition - Thomas Suddendorf

The Gap

The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals : 1st Edition


Published: 12th November 2013
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Published: 12th November 2013
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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.

About the Author

Thomas Suddendorf is a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland whose research has attracted honours and awards from such organizations as the American Psychological Association, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Association for Psychological Science. His work has been covered by the New York Times, Discover , and Science, among other outlets. Born and raised in Germany, he lives in Brisbane, Australia.


interesting logical and entertaining perspectives


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.

Brisbane, AU



4.0 1


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

ISBN: 9780465030149
ISBN-10: 0465030149
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 358
Published: 12th November 2013
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.6  x 3.0
Weight (kg): 0.59
Edition Number: 1