Juan Carlos Gomez - Apes, Monkeys, Children, and the Growth of Mind

If you have never read anything on the subject of comparative primate cognition then you may enjoy this book and get a lot out of it.

I, on the other hand, used it to fall asleep, over a period of almost six months. I don't believe it has ever taken me so long to finish a book. I just never was inspired, intrigued, or stimulated by the contents. The writing isn't particularly bad. Perhaps I've just read too much on the subject beforehand. The book, rather than being a presentation of a new idea or thesis, is a summary of the topic and research that has gone on for the past few decades. A book with illustration after illustration on the observance of gravity would not be interesting to someone already familiar with gravity. Likewise, this book is probably only interesting to those without kids who have never read about or observed apes and children.

As evidence for evolution Apes, Monkeys, Children, and the Growth of Mind may be thought provoking to someone new to the subject, but there are more compelling proofs and accounts of evolution out there. For much of the material I had difficulty seeing the importance. Is it for merely idle curiosity? What's the point? Is it to show that humans are more "advanced" than chimps and chimps are more "advanced" than monkeys? Well, there are no surprises in that. Everything is as one would predict, making it essentially a dull and meaningless read for me.

Your mileage may vary. I hope so.

from the publisher:
What can the study of young monkeys and apes tell us about the minds of young humans? In this fascinating introduction to the study of primate minds, Juan Carlos Gomez identifies evolutionary resemblances--and differences--between human children and other primates. He argues that primate minds are best understood not as fixed collections of specialized cognitive capacities, but more dynamically, as a range of abilities that can surpass their original adaptations.

In a lively overview of a distinguished body of cognitive developmental research among nonhuman primates, Gomez looks at knowledge of the physical world, causal reasoning (including the chimpanzee-like errors that human children make), and the contentious subjects of ape language, theory of mind, and imitation. Attempts to teach language to chimpanzees, as well as studies of the quality of some primate vocal communication in the wild, make a powerful case that primates have a natural capacity for relatively sophisticated communication, and considerable power to learn when humans teach them.

Gomez concludes that for all cognitive psychology's interest in perception, information-processing, and reasoning, some essential functions of mental life are based on ideas that cannot be explicitly articulated. Nonhuman and human primates alike rely on implicit knowledge. Studying nonhuman primates helps us to understand this perplexing aspect of all primate minds.