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Temple Grandin, the brilliant autistic animal behaviorist whose last book I blurbed here , has a new book, Animals Make us Human : Creating a Good Life for Animals, in which she argues that animals don’t think in words, but in senses, in colors, sounds, and smells. In her previous book she argued that the consciousness of autistic people and animals are the same : they see things in great detail (hyperspecificity), they see all the trees but they don’t see the forest, they are incapable of abstraction. Hyperspecificity is also a symptom of something called non-verbal learning disorder which one of my boys, Zachary, was diagnosed with a few years ago but has turned out not to have. But Zachary (see the Dispatch on the gartersnake dens of Manitoba here), has an extraordinary empathy with animals, particularly reptiles and amphibians. A Harvard study of creativity finds that the creative person is able to process and order huge amounts of detail, and when he is no longer able to do it, he becomes mad. All these studies in different disciplines, I think, are talking about the same thing, barking up the same neocognitive tree, but typically they don’t know about each other, so they haven’t compared notes.

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