The surprising, fascinating, and remarkable ways that animals use creativity to thrive in their habitats
Most of us view animals through a very narrow lens, seeing only bits and pieces of beings that seem mostly peripheral to our lives. However, whether animals are building a shelter, seducing a mate, or inventing a new game, animals' creative choices affect their social, cultural, and environmental worlds.
The Creative Lives of Animals offers readers intimate glimpses of creativity in the lives of animals, from elephants to alligators to ants. Drawing on a growing body of scientific research, Carol Gigliotti unpacks examples of creativity demonstrated by animals through the lens of the creative process, an important component of creative behavior, and offers new thinking on animal intelligence, emotion, and self-awareness. With examples of the elaborate dams built by beavers or the lavishly decorated bowers of bowerbirds, Gigliotti provides a new perspective on animals as agents in their own lives, as valuable contributors to their world and ours, and as guides in understanding how creativity may contribute to conserving the natural world. Presenting a powerful argument for the importance of recognizing animals as individuals and as creators of a healthy, biodiverse world, this book offers insights into both the established and emerging questions about the creativity of animals.
Carol Gigliotti is Professor Emerita of Dynamic Media and Critical and Cultural Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She is the editor of Leonardo’s Choice: Genetic Technologies and Animals.
"The Creative Lives of Animals is a game-changer. Carol Gigliotti shows how important creativity – improvisation and invention – is in a wide variety of contexts including expressing different emotions, playing, socially communicating with others, courting, mating, and raising children, and designing and engineering animals' homes. Easy-to-read and science-based, The Creative Lives of Animals will be of interest to a broad audience including researchers and non-researchers alike, and surely will change the ways in which humans view and treat the fascinating animals with whom we share our magnificent planet."
– Marc Bekoff, author of Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do
"In her marvelous book, Gigliotti reveals the astonishing depth and genius of animal creativity, demolishing a common view of animals as little more than robots mindlessly enacting the scripts given to them by Nature. Drawing on a century of ethological findings, the author shows how animals bring deep intelligence, emotions, and even an aesthetic sensibility to bear on their daily challenges. Animals are shown to be not mere 'types', but creative individuals and artists of their own lives. This is the rare work that opens our eyes to worlds of experience and being that would otherwise remain hidden from us."
– John Sanbonmatsu, author of Critical Theory and Animal Liberation
"The Creative Lives of Animals is smart, original, and well-written. Gigliotti topples one of the last remaining conceits about what distinguishes humans from nonhuman animals: the aptitude for creative expression and aesthetic appreciation. The Creative Lives of Animals is masterfully researched, and will surely make vital contributions to debates not only in animal studies but also in the philosophy of mind and even performance studies. At the same time, the writing sparkles, and the book overflows with stories so accessible and well-crafted that the book deserves wide readership. This is a work that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we think about animals – and ourselves."
– Colin Jerolmack, author of The Global Pigeon
"Gigliotti builds the case that animals of all types – from elephants to ants – are intelligent, albeit in ways that may manifest differently than humans, and they can communicate nuance, allowing individual behavioral innovation to spread through a community. Ultimately, her agenda is to seek greater empathy, value, and protection for animals by including them into a global creative force. This broad survey of creative animal behavior will appeal to artists of all types and to animal lovers."
– Library Journal
"An illuminating account of creativity in the wild. Gigliotti makes a solid case that humans have a lot to learn about the creatures that they share the planet with, and that much of what scientists previously thought was uniquely human isn't. Fans of Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal will be pleased."
– Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Finely written. Gigliotti, tuned into nature and the lives of animals, offers a good model for the rest of us to follow, helping us see the world not from myopic humanism but from the perspective of animals. Implicitly, Gigliotti asks everyone and not just scientists to learn about the lives of animals in our shared ecosphere to which we are all tied with an equal fate."
– Gregory F. Tague, Leonardo Reviews
"If you've ever purchased one of the many different types of 'squirrel proof' bird feeders, you can attest to the resourcefulness of animals. In this intriguing investigation of animal ingenuity, Gigliotti contemplates the novelty and meaning of creativity along with some essential elements, such as curiosity, flexibility, and persistence."
"The Creative Lives of Animals makes its strongest case when advocating a revision of how to think about, and act towards, animals. Ms. Gigliotti points out that humans are only one of millions of species on Earth. She suggests a retreat from anthropocentrism in favor of recognition that animals are individuals with complicated, powerful, creative lives of their own."
– The Economist
"From playfully bowing puppies to seductively singing alligators, Carol Gigliotti combines examples from interviews with scientists and excerpts of previously published books in this delightful index of animal inventiveness."
–Fionna M. D. Samuels, Scientific American
"If you doubt that other beings can create, prepare to be convinced otherwise. With a delightful combination of science and anecdote, Gigliotti explores a neglected facet of the inner lives of our fellow denizens of planet Earth. The result is a highly readable and accessible foray into the creative lives of animals."
– Jonathan Balcombe