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Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  8,817 ratings  ·  1,106 reviews
Why would a cow lick a tractor? Why are collies getting dumber? Why do dolphins sometimes kill for fun? How can a parrot learn to spell? How did wolves teach man to evolve?

Temple Grandin draws upon a long, distinguished career as an animal scientist and her own experiences with autism to deliver an extraordinary message about how animals act, think, and feel. She has a pe
Paperback, 358 pages
Published January 2nd 2006 by Harcourt (first published December 28th 2004)
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Tryn Totally! There is a lot of really good information in here that is easy to understand :)

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Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
I had serious problems with the way this book is written. Though Grandin's plainspoken writing style is refreshing, I often felt like she was oversimplifying very complex ideas in order to appeal to a scientifically illiterate audience (or worse, to make her arguments more convincing). Statements such as "Autism is a kind of way station on the road from animals to humans" aren't just over-dramatic (and ultimately nonsensical), they're also potentially offensive. Much of the book is purely specul ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Came for the autism, stayed for the Labradors. Background: Temple Grandin is an animal behavior specialist. She's single-handedly revolutionized the humane treatment of slaughter animals in the United States. She's also a vital force in the neurodiversity movement. This book argues broadly that animal cognition shares some key features with autistic cognition – picture-thinking, working memory shortages, detail-fixation, etc. It also takes a fascinating tour through what we know about animal emo ...more
Debbie Zapata
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: saturdaymx
My mother gave me this book and I wanted to get it read before my next trip north. I am very glad I did; it was fascinating on many levels.

Temple Grandin uses her own life experience as a person with autism to explore animal behavior. She compares the way brains work: 'normal' human, autistic human, animal. She talks about her own work and research with animals, but also mentions many research projects and publications that also deal with the ideas of why we (animals and people) are the way we a
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: b-the-good
This book truly is a must-read for any pet owner, and I highly recommend it to anyone who just loves animals. Temple Grandin offers fascinating insights to the animal world, which will confirm things long time pet owners always knew, and bring to light startling new information.

One main thing this book brings to light is to not underestimate animals or those with autism because often times they're smarter than us. Yet, that's one thing Grandin tries to avoid, saying things like animals are smart
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars for Animals in Translation (audiobook) by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson read by Shelly Frazier.
I find it fascinating getting to see the world through Temple’s eyes. Her understand of how animals think is amazing. This book is a great resource for everyone who has animals in there lives. From dogs and cats to horses and cows. This book explains how to provide a proper environment for the animals and how to correct their behavior in a humane way.
Oct 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I liked this book more than I expected. For a long time, I'd been reluctant to pick it up because I thought the premise was more or less, "I'm autistic so I'm halfway between 'normal' people and animals (every other species)." I'm sure I don't need to explain why that's offensive.

Instead, Dr. Grandin uses brain research, coupled with her experience as an autistic person, to try to explain how members of other species may experience the world.

If you can disregard the sweeping generalizations abou
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
I was actually really disappointed in this book. It seemed like just a collection of anecdotes. There was some science to back up her hypotheses but there wasn't that much. I was hoping for some better insights.
She also makes some crazy generalizations. For example the paint horse that was crazy and had whole body twitches every 30 seconds or so. She said it was Tourrett's like and was probably because he had a lot of white coloration. She never explored that maybe he received a physical head in
Aug 19, 2011 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book, and I haven't finished it, so I'm not sure if it's fair to write a review yet. But one thing keeps annoying me throughout the text: her constant use of the term "animals" when she really means "mammals" or specifically livestock. She makes generalizations such as "animals are visual creatures" which is certainly not true for the majority of animal species. She's specifically talking about livestock and hoofstock, but she's not using the specific term. On pa ...more
Feb 26, 2010 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it's almost worth the purchase price for the explanation of the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment, a distinction that escapes far too many pet owners, not to mention parents. And there is a ton of useful information in it for people who are learning about how animals think.

However, there are a few spots in it that give me cause for pause. Grandin has some unique ways of looking at things, and once she has a hypothesis
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a GREAT book for anyone who wants to learn about the way animals process information - and as a bonus, you learn about how humans do as well. I love that the author puts things in terms a lay person can understand, and I love that she is honest and humble. Grandin writes matter-of-factly about her own disability, and how it has enabled her to identify with the minds of animals in certain ways. I came away with a deeper understanding of how to interact with my horses and dogs, and found ...more
Clif Hostetler
The word "animals" is in the title, but the reader learns a lot about human behavior from this book. The author writes from her own personal perspective of being autistic.

I learned from the book that the frontal lobe's ability to screen through all the incoming sensory data to the human brain to quickly form broad generalizations is what we understand to be normal human consciousness. The more limited functioning of animal frontal lobes allows them more direct access to the raw data from lower
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How wonderful! I can't believe it took me so long to get to this. I love her unique style, and the stories from her exceedingly unique life experience, but most of all her insights.

I feel a lot of commonality to what she describes, making me wonder (am I on the spectrum?). The answer is that I think we all are (the spectrum is long), and if we allow a type of awareness that's perhaps less socially cultivated and rewarded, we can easily recognize and respond to the truth and insight that she LI
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: animal lovers, science geeks
This book is so awesome, everyone should read it. Grandin talks about the ways that her autism gives her insight into animal behavior, while weaving in discussions of genetics, breeding practices, and stories about animals. She talks about horses, cows, cats, dogs, and chickens, really there's something for everyone. Grandin is responsible for the redesign of slaughterhouses to be a lot more humane (she talks about some of the contradictions in ethics this entails, but overall, it seems like a v ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was an absolute delight to read. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone everywhere but especially to people who have an affinity for animals. You learn a great deal about animals in these pages but by way of contrast and compare you also learn a whole lot about human beings. Using scientific studies of animals, her own experiences as an autistic person, and her experiences working with commercial enterprises to improve the welfare of animals, the author hypothesizes that the way aut ...more
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I have mixed feelings about Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation". On the one hand, she writes about interesting and useful concepts. On the other hand, parts of her book are outdated (I checked the publication date 3 times while reading to confirm the book was written this century) and oversimplified.

I'm a professional dog trainer, so I'm constantly trying to figure out better and different ways to explain reinforcement (positive and negative), punishment (positive and negative), the hyper-
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Where do I start? This book was delightful. I so enjoyed this look into Temple Grandin's life and her life's work. Though I don't think Grandin would ever describe life with Autism as easy, she's certainly not going to sit around and pity herself either. Grandin was key to her own autism therapy at a very young age, designing a "squeeze" apparatus modeled after a machine she saw on her aunt's cow farm that was designed to gently squeeze the cattle as a means of calming them. Grandin had rather i ...more
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked this book and found many of the author's insights fascinating. It is interesting in reading reviews that many people gave it five stars but an almost equal number gave it a one star. I think there was one reviewer that said she'd have given it less than the one if that option was available. My main complaint with the book was that there were too many (though captivating) details and not enough generalizations. But, that is what makes this book interesting. Temple Grandin admits that this ...more
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
I'm not really much of an animal person, but I liked this book a lot, mostly for the view it gives you of what it might be like to be autistic.

I'd be interested to meet Temple Grandin. I'm amazed that she has managed to build such an impressive career, since she says in this book that until she was about thirty, every day she had the same feeling of anxiety that you get when you are about to defend your doctoral dissertation. Every day!

She eventually started taking medication that improved thi
Mandy Leins
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Temple Grandin is autistic, and has applied her experiences as an autistic woman to her work with animals. This book is sprinkled with information from all aspects of her work, including anecdotes of working within the food industry and why animals that are photographed in the wild are almost all marked with a white patch (no joke). It's a bit of a hard slog at times, and if you are at all at odds with the slaughter industry, you may feel that she is acting as an apologist and might become angry ...more
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is another exceptional read by Temple Grandin. Each book improves upon the last. I had a little trouble getting through it because it's very text heavy. This is not a complaint about the book, I just have trouble reading highly intelligent theories and thick content. Still I enjoyed it and I am ready to tackle her next book. ...more
Aug 22, 2011 is currently reading it
I agree with People magazine's praise: it's "Full of heart, soul, and crackling intelligence".

I'm loving every sentence of it...
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autism, nonfiction
Grandin is a fine writer, with real insight into the lives of animals of all sorts. i enjoy all her books.
I totally loved this book, and found it almost impossible to prevent myself from reading sections out loud to my husband or anyone else who would listen. There are many fascinating anecdotes about both animals and autism, and for the most part the notes and bibliography allow one to follow up on some of the more striking stories.

Temple Grandin believes (and I admit, I also hold this believe pretty strongly) that animals must be met on their own terms -- it's not fair to treat animals like humans
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: r
I have a number of conflicts with this book – which should in no way diminish the remarkable body of observations made by Dr Grandlin. It is generally accepted as cold hard fact that animals don’t think like humans. Until such time as there is scientifically verifiable information and understanding, we, as scientists, don’t know how humans *or* animals think. With ongoing study using functional MRI (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning we are learning more about the workings of ...more
Considering one of my favourite subjects is animal behaviour, I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.

Grandin is an autistic woman with a Ph.D. in Animal Science, so I thought this book might have a somewhat scientific bent to it. Instead, it is written in a conversational tone, poor grammar and all. That aside, it has some other major problems: Namely, despite the book being about the similarities in behaviour between animals and autistic
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-read, dog-books

Ummm. So I liked this, then about halfway through it became one of those books I just wanted to be over. So, there's that. Also I generally have objections to the dominant "pack leader" theory of dog training / rearing. Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, to me, provides a much more compelling model for thinking about dog behavior. If dogs are able to differentiate between other dogs and humans, as Grandin says that they are, why would they ta
Joy H.
Added 1/27/09

2/25/14 - I plan to get this book soon as an audio book from
A short audio sample can be heard here:

A GR reviewer (Clif) wrote "The word 'animals' is in the title, but the reader learns a lot about human behavior from this book."

Update 3/24/14 - I borrowed the CD version of this audiobook from my public library. It's excellent.

Update 3/30/14 - I finished listening to this audio book. IMO, it's a "must" for people interested in anim
Jun 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I love psychology, so I was really pleased that this book is jam-packed with psychological data and experiments, in regards to both humans and animals. However, I feel like Temple Grandin may be a victim of her generation. She (or her coauthor, it's hard to tell) consistently refers to neurotypical people as "normal" which is generally something I don't feel should be in a professional book. The other thing about her that made me hesitate was her implication that rottweilers and pit bulls are in ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all teens and adults!
This is a totally amazing book, which should be read by all teens and adults! Learn how both human brains and animal brains work! Wow!
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autism
A unique and fascinating book. Grandin makes a thesis that autistic people have a lot in common with animals in their way of processing information, thinking and experiencing pain and emotions. Well developed frontal lobes are characteristic of a normal human brain. They are also responsible for a global and coherent image of the world, and a generalized way of thinking. The outcome of healthy frontal lobes is more verbal expression and controlled behaviour (e.g. people have much more control ov ...more
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brain cognition language in animals 4 37 May 03, 2015 04:26AM  
All About Animals: Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin 13 29 Oct 30, 2013 06:17AM  

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Temple Grandin, Ph.D., didn't talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She tells her story of "groping her way from the far side of darkness" in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because, ...more

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24 likes · 10 comments
“We do know, however that almost no animal routinely kills prey animal on an indiscriminate basis.
The only wild animal I’ve seen who will sometimes violate this rule is the coyote. Most of the time a coyote eats the animals he kills, but occasionally coyotes will go on a lamb-killing spree, killing twenty and eating only one. I believe it’s possible coyotes have lost some of their economy of behavior by living in close proximity to humans and overabundant food supplies. A coyote that kills twenty lambs and eats only one isn’t going to have to trek a hundred miles to find more lambs next week. Any sheep rancher will have several hundred other lambs that will be just as easy to catch later on, and the coyote knows it. Wild coyotes have probably lost the knowledge that you shouldn't waste food or energy.”
“People who are attached to each other develop a social dependence on each other that's based in a physical dependence on brain opiates.” 3 likes
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