Sunday, November 27, 2005

Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation"

This is yet another book I learned about from blogs.

I don't know how much of it is dead right but she catches a lot that I believe. Here is a lovely section on what she calls the SEEKING system in creatures:
This part of the brain starts firing when the animal sees a sign that food might be nearby but stops firing when the animal sees the actual food itself. The SEEKING circuit fires during the search for food, not during the final locating or eating of the food. It's the search that feels so good.

That's not as surprising as it sounds when you think about it. At the most basic level, animals and humans are wired to enjoy hunting for food. That's why hunters like to hunt even if they're not going to eat what they kill: they like the hunting part in and of itself. Depending on their personalities and interests, humans enjoy any kind of hunt: they like hunting through fleamarkets for hidden finds; they like hunting for answers to medical problems on the Internet; they like hunting for the ultimate meaning of life in church or in a philosophy seminar. All of these activities come out of the same system in the brain.
Much later in the book, a passage that caused me to guffaw:
...anyone who's gone out and bought himself a Border collie - or who's thinking about going out and buying himself a Border collie - is missing one big item from the Border collie list, and that is a job
The rest of the book is a wonderful exercise in trying to understand us and the other creatures who surround us. I found it all wonderful, and recommend it highly.


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