In 'The Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings', Duane Rumbaugh and David Washburn have provided a unique insight into the lives of apes and other nonhuman primates. Rumbaugh has been a major contributor in the investigation of language skills in nonhuman animals, but the present book takes an even more expanded view of animal intelligence. Rumbaugh and Washburn are promoting a new way of looking at the mental lives of animals, and whether you agree or disagree with this new perspective, the book is a "must-read."
In addition to presenting scientific evidence to support the position of the authors that a new perspective of animal intelligence is needed, the book is also an enjoyable recollection of the first author of his career and the influence of his scientific studies on this perspective of animal intelligence. The reader will learn about the ability of great apes (and in some cases other nonhuman primates) to learn language, arithmetic, and other complex cognitive skills.
Readers familiar with the psychology of learning will be particularly interested in the promotion of a new class of behaviors called Emergents. No longer satisfied that the behavior of animals can be separated into the classes of Respondents and Operants, Rumbaugh and Washburn add this third class of behaviors to describe instances in which novel, appropriate behaviors with no clear reinforcement history 'emerge'. This aspect of the book will be controversial, but in a stimulating and intellectually productive manner indicative of good scholarship. Not everyone will agree with the authors' new perspective, but the reader will appreciate the evidence in support of that perspective.
The contributions of Duane Rumbaugh to the understanding of primate behavior have been substantial, and this book is an excellent summary of what has been learned through Rumbaugh's research. It is well written and would be enjoyable for people of all ages who have an interest in learning about animal intelligence, ape behavior, and more general learning processes.