"“After you’ve read
Mama’s Last Hug it becomes obvious that animals have emotions. Learn how they resemble us in many ways."
"There is nothing sentimental about de Waal’s position.… All the things he has learned about animals have come from observation. He is a brilliant observer, and is often amazed by what he sees."
New Scientist - Michael Bond
"Through colorful stories and riveting prose, de Waal firmly puts to rest the stubborn notion that humans alone in the animal kingdom experience a broad array of emotions."
"A captivating and big-hearted book, full of compassion and brimming with insights about the lives of animals, including human ones."
In this illuminating—and remarkably moving—treatise on animal empathy, Emory University primatologist de Waal (
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?) delivers some of his most damaging, and joyous, blows yet to human exceptionalism. Drawing on his own extensive experiences, de Waal recounts example after example of animals displaying humanlike emotions and “emotional intelligence.” Parrots, jays, mice, and apes can “time travel,” or project themselves into future events based on an awareness of the past, while monkeys and various bird species can delay gratification. This all makes sense, he argues, since “animals just can’t afford to blindly run after their impulses.” On a less lofty plane, chimps have been observed being cruel for fun, and rats can laugh (albeit ultrasonically). De Waal reflects that much has changed during his career. His proposal that animals can reconcile with each other after conflicts met with skepticism during the 1970s, but is now widely accepted. One remaining mystery—whether animals have “free will”—can’t be answered, he argues, until humans know if they themselves actually possess that trait. Making clear that “instead of tiptoeing around” emotions, researchers must now “squarely face the degree to which all animals are driven by them,” de Waal’s masterful work of evolutionary psychology will leave both fellow academics and intellectually curious layreaders with much food for thought. (Mar.)
Mama’s Last Hug, Frans de Waal marshals his wealth of knowledge and experience, toggling expertly between rigorous science and captivating anecdote to explain animal behavior—humans included. While doing so, he rebukes the common conceit that we are necessarily better, or smarter, than our closest relatives."
"An original thinker, [de Waal] seems to invite us to his front-row seats, sharing the popcorn as he gets us up to speed on the plot of how life works, through deeply affecting stories of primates and other animals, all dramas with great lessons for our own species."
Boston Globe - Vicki Constantine Croke
"De Waal’s eye-opening observations argue for better treatment and greater appreciation of animals, even as he ensures that you’ll never look at them—or yourself—the same way again."
"Frans de Waal is one of the most influential primatologists to ever walk the earth, changing the way we think of human nature by exploring its continuity with other species. He does this again in the wonderful
Mama’s Last Hug, an examination of the continuum between emotion in humans and other animals. This subject is rife with groundless speculation, ideology, and badly misplaced folk intuition, and de Waal ably navigates it with deep insight, showing the ways in which our emotional lives are shared with other primates. This is an important book, wise and accessible."
"Before I realized Frans de Waal’s connection to Mama’s actual last hug, I sent the online video link to a large group of scientists saying, ‘I believe it is possible to view this interaction and be changed forever.’ Likewise, I believe that anyone reading this book will be changed forever. De Waal has spent so many decades watching intently and thinking deeply that he sees a planet that is deeper and more beautiful than almost anyone realizes. In these pages, you can acquire and share his beautiful, shockingly insightful view of life on Earth."
"Game-changing....For too long, emotion has been cognitive researchers’ third rail....But nothing could be more essential to understanding how people and animals behave. By examining emotions in both, this book puts these most vivid of mental experiences in evolutionary context, revealing how their richness, power and utility stretch across species and back into deep time....The book succeeds most brilliantly in the stories de Waal relates."
The New York Times Book Review - Sy Montgomery
"I doubt that I've ever read a book as good as
Mama's Last Hug, because it presents in irrefutable scientific detail the very important fact that animals do have these emotions as well as the other mental features we once attributed only to people. Not only is the book exceedingly important, it's also fun to read, a real page-turner. I can't say enough good things about it except it's utterly splendid."
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Ethologist and zoologist de Waal (Emory Univ.;
Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?) uses his discoveries from a lifetime of studying primates to explore similarities in human and animal emotions, with a particular interest in reconciliation and conflict resolution. He argues that behaviorism—a focus on observable behavior—has led to the idea that animals only react to outside stimuli. He discusses the effects of this view on human-animal relations. Building on previous studies, the author advocates for the existence of a more complex emotional life in animals. He criticizes the theory that humans and animals act first in their own selfish interest; rather, he sees social connectivity as an essential component of both human and animal societies. He concludes with a plea to rethink the way humans treat animals, especially those we raise for our own use. Applying wide-ranging examples, from primates to schools of fish, he skillfully illustrates that emotions are an essential part of intellect for all species. VERDICT Recommended for readers with an interest in the crossroads of animal and human life. —Caren Nichter, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin
Once again, the eminent primatologist takes readers deep into the world of animals to show us that we humans are not the unique creatures we like to think we are.
In his latest highly illuminating exploration of the inner lives of animals, de Waal (Psychology/Emory Univ.), the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, provides a companion piece to his prizewinning
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (2016), which revealed the sophistication of animals' brains. Here, it is their emotions that take center stage. One of our keenest observers of emotional expressions, body language, and social dynamics, the author demonstrates that pride, shame, guilt, revenge, gratefulness, forgiveness, hope, and disgust all exist in other animals, not just humans. A dying chimpanzee matriarch's farewell to her longtime caretaker provides the title of the book, but this is just the first of many stories about the immense—and unique—emotional capacities of animals. "I don't expect to ever again encounter an ape personality as expressive and inspiring as Mama's," he writes. De Waal is impatient with scholars who assert that language lies at the heart of emotions, that feelings cannot be expressed without language. Sometimes he names names; sometimes he simply dismisses their ideas as nonsense. Most of the author's observations involve the spontaneous behavior of chimpanzees, bonobos, and other primates, but readers will also be rewarded with tales of birds, dogs, horses, elephants, and rats. As he has shown in nearly all of his books, de Waal is a skilled storyteller, and his love for animals always shines through. His examples of the actions of certain humans—e.g., Donald Trump, Sean Spicer—lend color to his argument, and the simple drawings that illustrate behaviors and facial expressions are exceptionally clear and effective.
De Waal turns his years of research into a delightful and illuminating read for nonscientists, a book that will surely make readers want to grab someone's arm and exclaim, "Listen to this!"