The book provides a new lens though which to see the world. Read it, and you might never look at yourself or your household pets in the same way”
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“Beautifully written, well researched and thought provoking, The Gap searches for key differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, and presents a balanced overview of the current status of our understanding of the mental abilities of animals. I found it fascinating and strongly recommend it to everyone who is curious as to how we have evolved to become the dominant species in the world today. Thank you, Thomas Suddendorf, for writing this book.”
—Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder, The Jane Goodall Institute, and UN Messenger of Peace
“An excellent work which probably stands alone in its field.”
—Richard Leakey
“Although he presents both “romantic” and “killjoy” interpretations of animal ability, his sure-handed, fascinating book aims neither to exaggerate the wisdom of animals nor to promote the exceptionalism of human beings.”
—Scientific American Mind
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“wonderful…[an] important and beautifully written book”
—Journal of the History of Biology
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“Fascinating…enjoyable..would make a marvellous gift”
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Ranked as a Top 10 book in Science
—by Publishers Weekly (Fall 2013)
“A remarkably good writer…leads the reader on a rewarding, thought-provoking journey…offering an easily digested and suitably unbiased overview of the current state of what comparative psychologists have discovered about the traits typically considered to be uniquely human…Mr. Suddendorf cuts an entertaining swath through a thicket of research studies on primate cognition…The author’s style is not only consistently interesting and informative but at times delightfully playful…it is a welcome addition to the growing literature explaining science to the intelligent layperson.”
—The Wall Street Journal
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Recommended as a Top 10 science and tech book
—The Guardian, November 2013
Presents information fairly and provides an excellent introduction to the current research and debate
“In this deep, illuminating investigation of the human condition, Thomas Suddendorf artfully brings the latest data from cognitive science and ethology to bear on the Greek adage: ‘know thyself.’ How do we differ from other primates? What cognitive feats, if any, are unique to the human lineage? And how did they evolve? Suddendorf expertly reviews the evidence and arrives at provocative conclusions. A must-read for anyone interested in evolution and the origins of humanity.”
—Stanislas Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain
“What makes us so special? This wonderful book shows that the human mind is unique in surprising ways that we should treasure more highly—but that we have a standard ape mind in many other ways that we vainly assume are exceptional. It offers a new kind of evidence-based self-esteem for our species, both humbling and ennobling. Suddendorf is a leading evolutionary psychologist and primatologist whose ground-breaking research has shown how humans are masters of building imaginary scenarios and linking our minds together socially. Here he weaves together hundreds of fascinating studies to make his case in a fun, wise, balanced, and accessible way that any thinking human will love.”
—Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist, University of New Mexico, and author of The Mating Mind
“Do talking parrots really have language? Are nut hoarding squirrels thinking of tomorrow? Do chimpanzees contemplate the meaning of life as they scratch their human-like heads? With the sure-handedness of a leading scientist and the love of man and of animals of a true humanist, Suddendorf takes a close look at the evidence, considering lean, killjoy interpretations versus rich, romantic ones, and emerging with original insight about what makes humans unique. The experience of reading The Gap is like riding a pendulum—you’re always moving but at the same time getting a better look at the world. I learned a heck of a lot from this important book, and so will you.”
—Oren Harman, Professor of the History of Science, Bar Ilan University, and author of The Price of Altruism
“Humans are naked apes. The similarity between them is striking. So how come the two kinds of apes, naked and hairy, are light years apart when it comes to their minds, their mental traits—abilities and aptitudes, predilections and proclivities? If you have ever been puzzled by this state of affairs, or if you are just curious by nature, this book is for you. Sweeping, sharply argued, and exceptionally entertaining, it tells a story about why this is so, a story that may turn out to be one of the great scientific discoveries of the century. Thomas Suddendorf is one of the world leaders in the study of the evolution of the human mind. His analysis of the ‘gap’ is brilliant, a veritable eye-opener. This book expands your mind. You can feel it as you read it. Begin with the first chapter. It alone is worth more than the price of the total opus.”
—Endel Tulving, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Toronto, and author of Elements of Episodic Memory
“We humans are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as vastly different from all other species on the planet, and indeed vastly superior, intellectually if not morally. According to religious doctrine, we are closer to angels than to apes. Thomas Suddendorf explores the nature of this gap within the framework of Darwinian evolution, without appealing to miracles or religious ideology. The book brilliantly combines scholarship with accessibility, explaining often difficult ideas in plain language. This is popular science at its best — erudite, entertaining, and wonderfully informative.”
—Michael Corballis, Professor of Psychology, University of Auckland, and author of The Recursive Mind
“In this fascinating discussion of the gap between us and other species, Suddendorf poses a series of questions about what makes us uniquely human. He covers a huge range of possibilities, ranging from tool making and language to mental time travel and imitation. Are these unique to humans, or do our closest relatives and even more distant species share these abilities? What about extinct hominins that may have looked like hobbits and had some of the characteristics of both humans and apes? Throughout the book the reader is taken on a tour of intriguing and sometimes bizarre research tales interwoven with the author’s observations of his own children and other animals. Written in a friendly, accessible style, this book is a must read for anyone interested in who we are and why—or if—we are special.”
—Niki Harré, author of Psychology for a Better World
“Suddendorf takes the reader on a journey through evolutionary time, back to the beginnings of our hominid ancestors and through to modern human children, to answer the deepest question our species alone can ask: what makes us different to all other species? Weaving in evidence from primatology, developmental psychology, animal behaviour, the fossil record, and experimental studies, Suddendorf puts forward a bold proposal: that what is uniquely human is the capacity to reflect on our past and imagine our future. A provocative and entertaining gem of a book.”
—Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Cambridge University and author of The Science of Evil
“A fine example of science made accessible for general readers, combining history, personal anecdotes, clear accounts of research and a broad picture of human evolution.”
—Kirkus Reviews
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“This is a thought-provoking book that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘know thyself’—making it clear the endeavour should go beyond navel-gazing to ponder the larger significance of being human.”
—New Scientist
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“[A] fine new book.”
—Weekly Standard
“admirably clear and cogent first book … deserves a wide audience.”
—Financial Times
“brilliantly fills in the gap with telling detail and acute analysis.”
—The Times
“a provocative argument for reconsidering what makes us human”
—The Vegetarian
“terrific…this is a very important book”
—Robyn Williams, Australian Book Review
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“Suddendorf's book provides the most comprehensive comparison of mentalities of humans and apes that one can imagine. It is difficult to conceive of any new experiments or field observation that might either challenge or further develop his conclusions.”
—Steven Mithen, The New York Review of Books
Editor’s choice: “Suddendorf is a skillful guide through 'the gap' between animal and human minds. He describes clever animal experiments and observational work with lucidity. He ends with a plea. Our ape cousins are dying out. It’s vital that we use our unique powers of foresight to prevent the gap from widening. [Five stars]”
—BBC Focus Magazine
“A compelling synthesis of the current literature on human evolution and comparative psychology to address the big questions of our species’ uniqueness. Fittingly, if the origin of human potential began with our ability for imaginative storytelling, Suddendorf’s narrative is an excellent addition to our species’ legacy.”
—Times Higher Education
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“The Gap tackles the difficult question of what separates humans from other animals, but part of its genius is the way it begins by putting humans into a biological context…[it offers] as good an answer to the questions about human uniqueness as I have ever encountered.”
—Rob Brooks in The Conversation/Huffington Post
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“Suddendorf keeps human uniqueness upright as a completely natural but highly special phenomenon… His catalogue of key differentiators is impressive”
—Times Literary Supplement