Animals in Translation
About the book:
Why would a cow lick a tractor? Why are collies getting dumber? Why do dolphins sometimes kill for fun? How can a parrot learn to spell? How did wolves teach man to evolve? Temple Grandin draws upon a long, distinguished career as an animal scientist and her own experiences with autism to deliver an extraordinary message about how animals act, think, and feel. She has a perspective like that of no other expert in the field, which allows her to offer unparalleled observations and groundbreaking ideas.
People with autism can often think the way animals think, putting them in the perfect position to translate "animal talk." Grandin is a faithful guide into their world, exploring animal pain, fear, aggression, love, friendship, communication, learning, and, yes, even animal genius. The sweep of Animals in Translation is immense and will forever change the way we think about animals.
*includes a Behavior and Training Troubleshooting Guide
About the author:
CATHERINE JOHNSON, Ph.D., is a writer specializing in neuropsychiatry and the brain and is the author of three previous books. She lives in New York.
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
Aimed at autism specialists, agricultural instructors, farm-management professionals, animal-behavior experts, and all other students, professors, and interested readers, this is primarily a chapter-by-chapter discussion guide keyed to Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. An extensive list of key terms to define and explore as well as several further reading suggestions are also offered.
CHAPTER 1: MY STORY
1. What is a squeeze chute? What does it do? What is it for? Why did Grandin realize at an early age that she “needed a squeeze chute of [her] own”? Describe the “squeeze machine” that Grandin designed for herself. How does this device help her?
2. Summarize Grandin’s background: her youth, her schooling, her accomplishments, her career. How did Grandin come to find “a connection between human intelligence and animal intelligence the animal sciences have missed”? And what, in essence, is that connection? Also, what does Grandin mean by calling autism “a kind of way station on the road from animals to humans”?
3. Why does the author claim that “animals are like autistic savants . . . [and] might actually be autistic savants”? What’s her reasoning?
4. Describe Grandin’s take on B. F. Skinner and behaviorism. Why does she take a critical view of behaviorism overall while also allowing that this movement “had a lot to offer, and still does?”
5. Explain the difference between behaviorists and ethologists. What does it means to “anthropomorphize” something? Why were both camps “in total agreement that practically the worst thing anyone could possibly do was to anthropomorphize an animal”? Does Grandin agree with his? Explain her qualifications or reservations regarding the anthropomorphic study of animals.
6. Toward the end of this chapter, Grandin relates the story of a famous experiment known as “Gorillas in Our Midst.” How did this experiment work? What did it prove? What does this experiment tell us about how normal people experience the world? And why does Grandin keep referring to this experiment throughout Animals in Translation?
7. Describe the differences between predators, prey animals, and scavengers. Give examples of each, and explain how these three categories relate to—and sometimes overlap—one another.
CHAPTER 2: HOW ANIMALS PERCEIVE THE WORLD
1. Why does Grandin assert that she has to “fight against abstractification constantly when [she’s] working with the government and the meatpacking industry”? What does she mean by “abstractified” thinking, and why does she claim that “people become more radical when they’re thinking abstractly”? Do you agree with Grandin on this last point? Why or why not?
2. Explain how autistic people and animals are alike in the way they see things. Also explain how and why the author’s thinking in this regard was encouraged by Nancy Minshew, a research neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh.
3. Review the list of eighteen “Tiny Details That Scare Farm Animals” (which Grandin presents in this chapter). Why is it especially relevant that “fourteen out of the eighteen distracters are visual”? Why do “contrast” and “things that are moving” appear so often on this list?
4. “Apparently animals use an additive system rather than an averaging system when they’re figuring out what something is and whether they should be afraid of it,” Grandin writes. Define these two systems, and elaborate on the difference between them.
5. In the “Sound” section of this chapter, Grandin says: “I think the orienting response is the beginning of consciousness.” Why does she think this?
6. Later Grandin notes, “Comparing animal brains to human brains tells us two things.” Identify and expand on these two key points. Also, explain the difference between the following three terms, and how they relate to one another: reptilian brain, paleomammalian brain, and neomammalian brain.
7. Grandin gives two reasons for thinking that “everyone has the potential for extreme perception.” What are these reasons? Also, what does she mean by asserting that “normal people see and hear schemas, not raw sensory data”? How do such schemas and data pertain to the idea of filtering stuff out—and how do animals and autistic people differ from normal people on this score?
CHAPTER 3: ANIMAL FEELINGS
1. Describe the phenomenon of “rapist roosters”—what are they, why did they come about, where and when do they appear, and how do they relate to the practice of single-trait breeding?
2. Why are albino animals “not normal”? What reasons or evidence does the author provide for their abnormality, and why do albino animals “suffer” (both domestically and in the wild)? Why are albino animals problematic for research?
3. “People and domestic animals have been together for a long time,” Grandin notes in this chapter, “and domestic animals have been evolving in response to humans for years.” Provide several examples of this, from this chapter as well as the rest of the book. Also, what does Grandin mean by “incidental selection pressure”—and how does this concept relate to both the coexistence and genetics of humans and animals?
4. What does the author mean by saying that “humans have neotenized dogs”? What have humans done to dogs in neotenizing them, and how—and why—did we do so in the first place? In answering these questions, summarize Grandin’s accounts of dogs and wolves in this regard.
5. What connection does the author make between her own lack of an unconscious mind and animals’ lack of Freudian defense mechanisms? How does this connection relate to “the fact that pictures are [Grandin’s] ‘native language’”?
6. What are mixed emotions? What are complex emotions? And what are the four core emotions and the four primary social emotions? Which of these emotions do humans have, which do animals have, and which do humans and animals share?
7. Name the trait(s) Grandin is referring to when she describes the “dinnertime wag-and-smile” feeling that all dogs exhibit (note that she cites Dr. Jaak Panksepp in naming this emotion). What is the brain’s SEEKING circuit—what does it trigger in humans as well as animals? Also explain the novelty paradox that stems from the SEEKING system.
8. Explain “animal superstition” (which is a B. F. Skinner term). Do humans also display this sort of behavior? And if so, do animals and humans develop superstitions in the same manner? Explain.
9. Why is Grandin so critical of how horse breeders house their stallions? (When answering this question, see also chapter 4.)
10. What is the difference between face recognition and f
ace memory, and how does each pertain to the object recognition area of the brain (that is, in autistic as well as normal people)? What is social memory?
11. Define vasopressin (or arginine vasopressin) and oxytocin, explaining how each is involved in the mating, sexual activity, and parenting of animals.
12. Explain how and why social warmth in animals “evolved out of the brain system that handles physical warmth.”
13. Why is it that “we don’t know as much about the brain basis of play [in animals] as we do for curiosity, love, and sex”? What do we know about how and why animals like to play so much? And what do we know about the relationship between play and brain development in animals? From an animalistic standpoint, expand on the behavioral and emotional differences between play fighting and real fighting.
14. “In real life,” Grandin notes, “animals seem to feel emotions one at a time, with one important exception.” Name this exception, and explain when and why it occurs.
15. What is “Springer rage”? Why does it occur in Springer spaniels, and how did this rage come about?
CHAPTER 4: ANIMAL AGGRESSION
1. Define and differentiate between the two core kinds of aggression in animals. Which kind is broader? Which is more common?
2. Explain the relationship between instincts and drives. Why is it that “the concept of a drive didn’t hold up well once researchers started mapping the brain”?
3. Speaking generally—that is, considering only brain size and complexity and species—how much animal behavior is learned and how much is instinctual?
4. Explain why all animals must have both physical and emotional motivations for meeting bodily needs. Also, describe the relationship that exists between predatory killing and the SEEKING emotion (which was first discussed in the previous chapter).
5. Define the “quiet bite” form of predatory killing. Also, recount the story Grandin tells of Lilly and Harley, her friend’s cats in New York. Why did these two cats remind the author of autistic fixations?
6. “Almost no animal routinely kills prey animals on an indiscriminate basis,” Grandin writes. But what is the exception? What predator in the wild occasionally violates this rule? And why does Grandin think this animal does so?
7. Name and explain the seven different kinds of rage aggression categorized by Grandin. Also explain how the neurotransmitter serotonin might relate to social dominance in particular and to aggression in general.
8. From an animalistic or even psychobiological standpoint, what is rage for?
9. “People who love animals often think [of them] as being aggressive but not violent,” Grandin writes. “Only [human beings] commit rapes, murders, or wage wars.” Explain why this is—or is not—actually true.
10. Is infanticide a logical fact of evolution—or a freakish aberration of it? Discuss a few different kinds of animals when exploring this question.
11. The greater the complexity of an animal’s brain, it seems, the greater the potential for that animal to exhibit vicious behavior. Why is this the case?
12. Grandin lists two essential actions for “manag[ing] an animal’s aggressive nature”—what are they? Be sure to explain the term “socializing” when naming these actions.
13. What are leash laws—and why is Grandin critical of them?
14. When addressing how best to treat farm animals, Grandin writes: “You have to work with an animal’s emotional makeup, not against it.” Explain what she means here, citing examples of actions that go with and against animals’ emotions. Also explain how this idea relates to dominance hierarchies.
15. Why is it “so easy to teach a dog not to bite in the first place, but so hard to teach a dog to stop biting once he’s started”? When answering, discuss the author’s careful distinctions between training and dominance. And why does Grandin add that, when it comes to backing an animal out of its aggressive behavior habits, “in some cases the problem is the owner”?
16. How and why does the author see significant similarities between dominant dogs and children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?
17. At the end of this chapter, Grandin explores the coevolution of humans and dogs. How does she use their long period of codevelopment—and cohabitation—to make the point that “dogs don’t hurt people more often [because they] belong together”?
CHAPTER 5: PAIN AND SUFFERING
1. Why do animals often hide their pain?
2. When it comes to animals feeling (and dealing with) pain, Grandin notes: “Prey animals can be incredibly uncomplaining” but that “predator animals can be big babies.” This seems to be the opposite of what we might expect; why is this the case? Also, why is it that vets tend to worry about animals experiencing “too little pain instead of too much”?
3. Do fish feel pain? Paraphrase both the affirmative and negative answers Grandin gives for this query.
4. How is the duality of pain and suffering (in all animals and people) related to the brain’s frontal lobe? Are pain and suffering one and the same? If not, why not—and when and how are they not? Explain. Why does Grandin say animals “probably aren’t as upset about pain as a human being would be in the same situation”? Finally, how does Grandin’s thinking on this subject pertain to people with autism?
5. “Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain.” What is the author’s reasoning for this claim— and how does her reasoning stem from the fact that fear and pain are (in terms of the brain) opposites?
6. Clarify the difference between fear and anxiety, pointing out which parts of the brain deal with each emotion. Also explain how these phenomena correspond with the fight-or-flight impulse and orienting response emotion in animals. Why is vigilance linked with the orienting response? And how did the author’s experience with taking antidepressants influence her thinking on these matters?
7. Why does Grandin suggest that the “feral children” of centuries past could have actually been children with autism?
8. “When it comes to managing their fear,” writes Grandin, “animals and autistic people are at a big disadvantage because they have to rely on pictures.” Illuminate the point she is making here. How is the brain’s frontal lobe involved?
9. What is the purpose of fear? Summarize the study of the fearful guppies in explaining this purpose.
10. The author asserts that “people and animals use their emotions to predict the future.” How do emotions make such predictions happen—and what ultimate purpose(s) might these predictions serve? Provide a few examples, if you can, and in doing so address what Grandin calls the “basic principle [of] close-up = fear [and] distant = calm.”
11. “Most researchers have concluded that fear of snakes is semi-innate,” Grandin notes. Define “semi-innate.”
12.What are evolutionary fears, and how do they reflect Grandin’s assertion that “evolution [sometimes gives] animals and people an ability to ward off trouble before it happens?”
13. Define “extinction” as used by behaviorists, and explain how the term differs from forgetting.
14. What are slow fears and fast fears, and how do they each relate to the amygdala? Also, explain the difference between learned facts and learned fears—which sort of learning lasts longer and goes deeper, and why?
15. Why does Grandin employ the term “hyper-specific”—a word that comes from the study of autism—to denote animal fears?
16. “The more fearful the animal, the more likely he is to investigate.” Explain this apparent paradox.
17. Give a few examples of overgeneralized fears that an animal or person might experience. Why do a person’s fears in this case tend to be conceptual, while an animal’s tend to be physical?
18. Toward the end of this chapter, Grandin gives a detailed account of how “animals can be inoculated against fears by other animals.” How does she use Seabiscuit, the famous racehorse, to make this point?
CHAPTER 6: HOW ANIMALS THINK
1. What is “true cognition” (according to the Oxford researcher Marion Stamp Dawkins)? Do animals exhibit this trait? If so, which animals and how?
2. Explain why Dr. Irene Pepperberg found phenomenal success in her experiments with Alex (her amazingly smart parrot) by switching from operant conditioning to social modeling theory.
3. Who is Ildefonso? What is his background and why do we know about him to begin with? Sum up what Grandin thinks we might be able to learn about animals and cognition from Ildefonso—and from other language-less people. At one point Grandin supposes: “Do some animals have religious feelings and perceptions? Do animals believe in magic? I don’t think anyone can rule it out.” Is Grandin reaching too far here, in your view? Explain why you do or don’t think so.
4. Must there always be language in a creature in order for consciousness to also exist in that creature? Explain how the author’s negative take on this query stems from her own autism. Also, describe how the “dreaming mice” experiment at MIT at least suggests that animals (even if they lack language per se) are conscious beings.
5. Review Grandin’s five-point checklist for inspectors aiming to make sure that animals receive humane treatment at meatpacking plants. Explain how this checklist both critiques and corrects “language-based thinkers” such as “people in academia and often in government” while also covering all conceivable details great and small. Also, given the fastidiousness and proven success of this checklist, describe how Grandin brings a unique—and uniquely animal-savvy—perspective to such endeavors.
6. Did the prairie dogs outside Flagstaff, Arizona, really create a language? And do they now “speak” and “understand” it? Review the author’s detailed account of these animals when formulating your answers.
7. “Animals are the originators of music and the true instructors.” Why does Grandin make this claim? What’s her logic? Further, how can she confidently assert that birdsong is “a good candidate for being a true animal language”?
8. Returning to Dr. Pepperberg and Alex, how did this incredible parrot come to actually spell the word “nut”? And why, in spite of this remarkable breakthrough, does Dr. Pepperberg refrain from claiming that Alex has language?
CHAPTER 7: ANIMAL GENIUS: EXTREME TALENTS
1. Near the outset of this chapter, Grandin says that “most animals have ‘superhuman’ skills [in that] animals have animal genius.” Give examples of such genius, from chapter 7 and from throughout Animals in Translation.
2. Who was Clever Hans? Explain why the author is so impressed with Hans even though his famed “counting” ability was finally disproved.
3. Account for why Grandin flatly rejects the “if-animals-were-smart-they-wouldn’t-still-be-pooping-in-the-woods theory of animal cognition.” What does this theory maintain? In describing Grandin’s rejection, explain why any given culture—and the knowledge existing within that culture—must evolve.
4. What is the “hidden figures talent”—and why do autistic people seem to be so good at it? Describe a few of the practical, immediate employment opportunities Grandin sees for autistic people in relation to this talent. Moreover, flesh out what the author means by the following declaration: “Normal people don’t draw a dog, they draw a concept of a dog. Autistic people draw the dog.”
5. Revisit the “ant navigation” story that Grandin relates, which concerns how ants in an obstacle course will invariably, on passing a gray pebble while going one way, “look for that same gray pebble [when] coming back” the other way. Why does Grandin add: “I do the same thing ants do”? What point is she making here about the way in which animals and people with autism see the world?
6. If we are to believe one key study, as Grandin notes: “Wolves and people were together at the point when homo sapiens had just barely evolved from homo erectus . . . they were on a lot more equal footing than dogs and people are today.” What did humans “learn” from evolving alongside wolves? What did we get from them in terms of thought and behavior, action and skill, strength and talent?
7. Revisit the last two sentences of this chapter: “People were animals, too, once, and when we turned into human beings we gave something up. Being close to animals brings some of it back.” What’s the “it” that Grandin is referring to here?
KEY TERMS TO DEFINE AND EXPLORE
Finally, consider these two statements from Grandin’s book. The first is from Chapter 1: “What animals do in labs is nothing like what they do in the wild—so what are you actually learning when you do [lab-based] experiments?” The second is from chapter 5: “It’s a mistake to assume that everything we see in nature serves a purpose [because] evolution can be random.” Do these statements, taken together, make Animals in Translation a weaker book, in your view, or a stronger one? Explain,
As coauthor Catherine Johnson notes in her acknowledgments, this book “draws on at least nine different fields [to explore] the nature of animals and autism and how they go together.” Therefore, Animals in Translation will both engage and enlighten students, teachers, and professionals over a range of academic, scientific, and agricultural disciplines. To that end, readers of this book may want to identify and discuss the following terms, all of which appear in Animals in Translation.
Alpha males and beta males
AOS and MOS (olfactory systems)
Bloodlines (and freak bloodlines) in animals
Center-track restraining system
Classification and reclassification
Click language and tonal language
Cognitive specialists and generalists
Cumulative cultural evolution
Fixed action patterns and emotions (and how both relate to the brain)
Forebrain and corpus callosum (in domestic animals)
Forebrain and corpus callosum (in domestic animals)
General intelligence (or g)
Implicit cognition and subliminal perception
Loners, aggressors, and retreaters (in a litter)
Lower-down brain functions
Lumpers and splitters (Darwin’s terms)
Meaning, productivity, and displacement (in language)
Midbrain and olfactory bulbs (in humans)
Model/rival (Dr. Pepperberg’s technique)
Open arena study
Pleasure (or reward) center of the brain
Positive and negative reinforcement
Predatory chasing instinct
Receptive and expressive language
Seismic communication (“silent thunder” of elephants)
Single-trait breeding (or single-trait selection )
Skinner’s “black box”
Strange situation test
Subcortical brain structures
Three- and four-component tasks
Triune brain theory
Unified theory of savant abilities
For more of Grandin’s quick facts, expert pronouncements , and thorough checklists, educators can now turn to the Behavior and Training Troubleshooting Guide located at the end of Animals in Translation.
Teachers should also consider the following supplementary texts, which Grandin refers to throughout Animals in Translation: Descartes’ Error by Antonio R. Damasio; Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin; How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete; Affective Neuroscience by Jaak Panksepp; The Alex Studies by Irene Pepperberg; The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks; A Man Without Words by Susan Schaller; To Touch a Wild Dolphin by Rachel Smolker; The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas; Extraordinary People: Understanding “Idiot Savants” by Darland A. Treffert; and Nobody Nowhere by Donna Williams.