Home Psychology Animal Minds and Our Favorite Fables with Dr. Jo Wimpenny

Animal Minds and Our Favorite Fables with Dr. Jo Wimpenny

Animal Minds and Our Favorite Fables with Dr. Jo Wimpenny


Zazie and Kristi are joined by zoologist Dr. Jo Wimpenny to speak about her guide, Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables.

Jo Wimpenny, Zazie Todd, and Kristi Benson chat on Zoom about Jo's book Aesop's Animals

By Zazie Todd PhD

Watch episode 15 of The Pawsitive Put up in Dialog under or on Youtube, hear under or through your favorite podcast app (together with Apple, Spotify), or scroll right down to learn the highlights.

About this episode

This web page incorporates affiliate hyperlinks which implies I’ll earn a fee on qualifying purchases for gratis to you.

On this episode of The Pawsitive Put up in Dialog, Zazie and Kristi are joined by zoologist and author Dr. Jo Wimpenny to speak about her guide Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables. We discuss concerning the historical past of Aesop’s fables and the position they nonetheless play in society in the present day, earlier than transferring on to wonder if there’s a grain of fact in them with regards to animal behaviour.

We contemplate among the hottest fables. Are crows actually as intelligent as Aesop recommended? Why are wolves at all times the villain? Do canines acknowledge their shadow? And what’s the yellow snow take a look at all about?

We additionally discuss concerning the distinction between what the fable says on the floor, and what occurs whenever you actually dig deep into the query—the ant and the grasshopper is the fable that involves thoughts right here.

In Wimpenny’s guide, the animals are the characters in their very own tales. We speak about writing about animals and the significance of discussing myths.

And, in fact, we discuss concerning the books we’re studying. This episode, we advocate:

Bitch: On the Feminine of the Species by Lucy Cooke.

Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman.

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie.

Being Mortal: Drugs and What Issues within the Finish by Atul Gawande.

Earlier than and After the Ebook Deal: A Author’s Information to Ending, Publishing, Selling, and Surviving Your First Ebook by Courtney Maum.

The books recommended by Jo, Kristi, and Zazie in episode 15 of The Pawsitive Post in Conversation

About Dr. Jo Wimpenny:

Dr. Jo Wimpenny is a zoologist and author, with a analysis background in animal behaviour and the historical past of science. She studied Zoology on the College of Bristol, and went on to analysis problem-solving in crows for her DPhil at Oxford College. After postdoctoral analysis on the historical past of ornithology at Sheffield, she co-authored the guide Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin with Tim Birkhead and Bob Montgomerie, which received the 2015 PROSE award for Historical past of Science, Drugs and Know-how. And he or she’s the creator of the fantastic guide, Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables, which is out now in paperback.

Observe Dr. Jo Wimpenny:

Substack   Twitter   Instagram  

Aesop’s Animals is on the market from all good bookstores and my Amazon retailer.  

Highlights of the episode with Dr. Jo Wimpenny

Z: How did you provide you with the thought to check Aesops fables with what we find out about animals? 

J: Yeah in order you stated, I did my PhD on crow cognition, that was at Oxford. And it was quickly after I completed that that this pivotal research was printed on rooks, which was the primary replication of an Aesop Fable. It was the Fable of the Crow and the Pitcher, which I can simply develop barely. I am certain your listeners are acquainted, however there is a very thirsty crow that comes throughout a pitcher with water in it, however it may possibly’t attain the water as a result of it may possibly’t get its head contained in the neck of the pitcher. So what it does is it drops stones into the pitcher, and little by little it brings up the water stage and so it may possibly drink. So it saves itself from dying of thirst by this superb drawback fixing feat. 

And so this experiment was replicated in I feel 2009 on the College of Cambridge they usually did it with rooks, that are one other sort of corvid, so a member of the crow household. And so they discovered that the rooks did it. I would just come out of my PhD and I used to be fairly struck by this experiment, and it wasn’t speedy nevertheless it sowed the seeds for this concept of, I’m wondering which different fables would possibly truly be supported by science? And so the thought was sort of born out of that. 

“What can we even imply by the phrase villain once we apply it to animals as a result of that is a really human phrase.”

It was a little bit of a sluggish burner however you realize I spent years worrying that any person else was was gonna write all about it earlier than I kind of received my arse in gear and really did it. 

Z: Properly fortunately they did not and you bought to do it. And these are very previous fables aren’t they? They’re from such a very long time in the past, so to consider them now when it comes to fashionable science is a extremely fascinating concept. However as a result of they’re a part of our cultural historical past, did you develop up with a replica of Aesop’s fables? 

J: You understand I do not even keep in mind. I might love for it to be the case that I fondly keep in mind listening to my dad and mom studying Aesop’s fables. I used to be positively aware of them. I am certain we most likely had a replica. And but what you say about them being actually previous tales, you realize they date again, properly we do not know that a lot about Aesop however the present concept is that he lived some 5 to 6 hundred years BC. So if he produced these fables, and we all know that a number of of them can have been added to they usually’ve kind of developed through the years, however we’re nonetheless over 2,000 yr previous tales. 

And the factor that struck me was simply how superb, how weird truly, it’s that we nonetheless inform these tales which can be so previous. And that our beliefs about sure animals are nonetheless influenced by these tales; you realize we have moved on in so some ways in our society however these items nonetheless affect us from such an early age. And in order that was one among my predominant motivations and issues that I needed to discover within the guide. 

Ok: I feel it is such an important hook too, as a result of all people is uncovered to those tales you actually know them. I feel your level was actually good within the guide that these aren’t tales about animals per se, they’re tales about instructing about human morality, and human society and human conduct and the way people ought to act you realize. However as a result of it is animals it turns into prefer it is part of our story. The material of how we take into consideration animals was kind of arrange in these tales, so it is actually neat. I believed it was an important hook to be like okay properly, I did not understand that I believed that approach about animals due to this story that I heard. 

We did not have a replica in my home once I was a child however I feel we learn them in grade 5 or one thing. I keep in mind checking them out of the library and studying them and discovering them actually satisfying, there’s one thing so satisfying about these tales. I feel your writing is also nice. I feel you do a extremely good job of taking the science and making it fascinating however not dumbed down. I do not suppose the guide would have had it the legs it has with out your writing in addition to the hook of simply being like Oh God these tales are so acquainted to us. 

J: Oh thanks. I imply that is precisely what I needed to attain actually. It is tales about science, and science needed to be on the coronary heart of them. I did not wish to trivialize what we all know as a result of a few of science is so difficult. So there’s quite a bit in that guide. There are lots of findings and that is a outstanding testimony actually to the way in which that the sphere of animal cognition and every little thing that we find out about animal conduct has actually grown. Nevertheless it’s nice to listen to that you just like my writing model that is good, thanks. 

Ok: So in one of many chapters, The Canine and Its Shadow, it takes the place to begin of the query of whether or not canines can acknowledge themselves in a mirror. And in addition to answering this query you take a look at what a canine centered strategy to addressing this query is perhaps. Are you able to discuss us by means of that? 

J: Positive. So within the fable there is a canine. It is received this beautiful juicy bone, and it is hurrying house, and it goes throughout a bridge over a river or a lake or one thing, and it sees its reflection. And within the fable it would not acknowledge that the reflection is itself. It sees one other canine. And so it does what canines do and it barks on the different canine, and due to this fact drops his bone into the water and loses it. 

And so I noticed this as a very nice approach of entering into the subject of self-awareness and mirror self-recognition, and that is a subject that has some controversy to it. Classically the way in which that folks would ask whether or not animals are self-aware, or whether or not they can understand that they are themselves moderately than the animal, can be to make use of the mirror take a look at. The mirror self-recognition take a look at was pioneered by Gordon Gallup with chimpanzees again within the early Seventies. And that take a look at has kind of develop into very a lot the gold normal take a look at for asking whether or not animals are self-aware. 

“I’m wondering which different fables would possibly truly be supported by science?”

However for issues like canines and plenty of different animals they do not cross it. So in that respect Aesop was fairly proper within the fable in that, and you’ll see this from YouTube I am certain, and I am certain a lot of your listeners can have seen this of their canines as properly, that in the event that they stand in entrance of a mirror they’re extra prone to bark on the reflection, or they’re extra prone to try to provoke play with it, or perhaps they’re going to simply ignore it. There isn’t any proof that they appear within the mirror and say, oh that is me and I must get this factor off my face or no matter it’s. 

And so the basic interpretation of animals that fail that take a look at is that they don’t seem to be self-aware, however fairly lots of people have known as that interpretation into query. So I stated it is maybe not as black and white as that, and moderately than saying we are able to solely get details about self- consciousness from animals that cross it, we have to actually be asking what does it imply if animals do not cross it? Can we actually say that which means they have no self consciousness? 

It was individuals like Mark Bekoff and Alexandra Horowitz who pioneered these research with canines taking a really totally different strategy. And so they thought it made much more sense to ask what the canine is aware of by means of its sense of scent, as a result of sense of scent is so essential to canines. And a lot of their sort of recognition is finished by means of their nostril moderately than by means of their eyes that ecologically it is sensible that they could truly acknowledge different animals and acknowledge themselves by means of what they’re smelling. In order that they pioneered these exams. 

Mark Bekoff initially did a take a look at known as the yellow snow take a look at. And he simply kind of tried this out along with his personal canine. He seen that when he was out strolling within the snow along with his canine, if he moved his canine’s urine additional down the trail whereas his canine was off within the bushes sniffing round, the canine would come again and really take note of that patch of urine. And if he moved the urine of different canines as properly he might see these variations in the way in which that it was sniffing at its urine versus others. After which Alexandra Horowitz took this into the lab and did extra experiments on asking whether or not canines have this olfactory sense of self. The proof appears to be that sure, they could properly acknowledge themselves primarily based on what they’re smelling moderately than what they’re seeing in a mirror. 

Z: I feel that is very cool. So is there a fable that received issues fully fallacious with regards to animals? 

J: I might say the wolf, however I might say each story just about that we ever hear about wolves is just about fallacious. I imply individuals are actually beginning to write tales which painting wolves fairly properly I feel, however you realize the basic Huge Unhealthy Wolf, The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothes. So that’s the Aesop’s fable, The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothes. However there have been a lot of Aesop’s fables about wolves and in each single one just about the wolf is portrayed as this ruthless, misleading vicious killer, usually alone, an animal which plots to do nasty issues. And that is the portrayal I feel that has been continued over the generations and been laid down into our youngsters’s tales and issues like Little Crimson Driving Hood or Peter and the Wolf or Three Little Pigs. You understand there are such a lot of kids’s tales that painting wolves as these huge unhealthy villains and it is simply not true. 

Certainly one of my predominant objections to that’s what we are able to even imply by the phrase villain once we apply it to animals as a result of that is a really human phrase. And naturally these fables have been about conveying human morality and so a lot of these portrayals are tied up in very human language. However a wolf is not a villain, as a result of that is a label that brings with it tons and plenty of human baggage I feel. And it is the identical for one thing just like the fox, if we name it a trickster or crafty or any of these items which sort of implies that they are doing issues on this nasty approach they usually’re plotting to deceive us. So I used to be very blissful to try to shoot down that delusion, expose and painting among the true traits of wolves in that individual chapter.

In regards to the co-hosts

Kristi Benson is an honours
graduate of the celebrated Academy for Canine Trainers, the place she earned
her Certificates in Coaching and Counseling (CTC). She additionally has gained
her PCBC-A credential from the Pet Skilled Accreditation Board. She
has just lately moved to lovely northern British Columbia, the place she
will proceed to assist canine guardians by means of on-line instructing and
consultations. Kristi is on workers on the Academy for Canine Trainers,
serving to to form the following technology of canine professionals. Kristi’s
canines are rescue sled canines, largely retired and totally having fun with a great
snooze in entrance of the woodstove. 

Kristi Benson’s web site  Fb  Twitter  

Zazie Todd, PhD,
is the award-winning creator of Wag: The Science of Making Your Canine Blissful and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Blissful. She is the creator
of the favored weblog, Companion Animal Psychology, and in addition has a column
at Psychology Immediately. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, along with her husband,
one canine, and one cat. 

Fb  Instagram  Substack

As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from
qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate and Marks and Spencer
affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here