Fawl Lecture Series

2017 Fawl Lecture presents:

Frans de Waal

"Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?"

Thursday, March 30, 2017
7 p.m.
O'Donnell Auditorium

Frans de Waal
Dr. de Waal is a Dutch/American ethologist and biologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. His first book (1982), compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His scientific work has been published in technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books—translated into over twenty languages—have made him one of the world's most visible primatologists. His latest books are The Atheist and the Bonobo (Norton, 2013) and Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (Norton, 2016).

De Waal is C. H. Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also Distinguished Professor at Utrecht University. He has been elected to the (U.S.) National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today, and in 2011 by Discover as among 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science.

de Waal to Present His Animal Intelligence Research

Book entitled, "Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?" by Frans de Waal
The wall between human and animal intelligence is starting to look like a Swiss cheese. Whereas a mechanistic view of animals prevailed during most of last century, an undercurrent of scientists nourished a more cognitive approach, which by now has become dominant. It started a century ago with the observation that chimpanzees solve problems with a flash of insight.

Initially, this kind of research was ridiculed and suppressed, while a taboo was placed on anthropomorphism. From a Darwinian perspective, however, the most parsimonious assumption about closely related species (such as humans and apes) is that behavioral similarity reflects psychological similarity. Anthropomorphism is actually a logical position regarding our closest relatives. Neuroscience increasingly supports this view, and human uniqueness claims have fallen one by one over the last few decades. Other primates are now seen as political, cultural, perhaps even moral beings. This cognitive revolution has been rippling beyond the primates to include the entire animal kingdom, from tool-using crows to cooperating dolphins. Many unexpected new capacities have been discovered, such as that animals are aware of their own knowledge (metacognition) or reflect on past and future (time travel).

Dr. de Waal will provide a general overview of the methods and findings of animal studies with an accent on primates and elephants, but also including octopuses, corvids, cetaceans, and fish. The central message of this new science, known as evolutionary cognition is one of mental continuity across all species, with human intelligence being a variety of animal intelligence.


About Fawl Lecture Series

Psychology professor PDF iconClifford L. Fawl  (1930-2002) left an indelible mark on the Psychology Department at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Chairing the department for over 40 years, Fawl challenged students to think for themselves, integrated innovative teaching programs and designed the laboratory space in the Smith-Curtis building.

In 1975, Fawl started a Psychology Fair that invited hundreds of high school students and their teachers to engage in demonstrations of psychological phenomena. Distinguished researchers in the various fields of psychology were invited each year to present a lecture and interact with our students. 

In 1997, friends and alumni donated money to establish The Fawl lecture series in his honor. There are two objectives for the Fawl Lecture Series Fund: to honor the career of Cliff Fawl and to fund an annual lecture in psychology.


Past Fawl Lecturers

Year Lecturer Affiliation


Susan Clayton

Wooster University


Samuel Gosling

University of Texas at Austin


Lisa Lopez Levers

Duquesne University


Ken Keith

University of San Diego


Michael Shermer

The Skeptics Society


James H. Bray

Baylor College of Medicine


Mary Spiers

Drexel University


Alice H. Eagly

Northwestern University


Craig A. Anderson

Iowa State University


Ludy Benjamin

Texas A&M University


Robert D. Hare

University of British Columbia


Christopher Peterson

University of Michigan


Robert Sternberg

Yale University


Margaret Matlin

State University of New York, Geneseo


Richard Suinn

Colorado State University


William McKeachie

University of Michigan


Linda Bartoshuk

Yale University

Psychology Fair Speakers

Year Speaker Affiliation


Ron Comer

Princeton University


Steven Smith

Texas A&M University


David Myers

Hope University


Eleanor Maccoby

Stanford University


Lawrence Wrightsman

University of Kansas


Ludy Benjamin

Texas A&M University


Elizabeth Loftus

University of Washington


Allen and Beatrice Gardner

University of Nevada


Richard Solomon

University of Pennsylvania


James McConnell

University of Michigan


Harry Harlow

University of Arizona

Contact or visit us

Psychology Department
Dr. Marilyn Petro, Department Chair
Smith-Curtis, Room 340B
Lincoln, NE 68504
mpetro [at] NebrWesleyan.edu