Psychology Professor Reiss Discusses Her New Book, The Dolphin in the Mirror
To celebrate the release of Professor Diana Reiss's new book The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives, an animated group of Reiss's family, friends, students, and colleagues gathered together with President Jennifer Raab in the Faculty Dining Room on Tuesday evening, September 27th.
"One of the reasons Hunter College is such an extraordinary institution is because of faculty like Diana Reiss," President Raab said in her introductory remarks. "And this book makes complex material very accessible. Diana is a scientist of the first rank and a passionate advocate. She is the model of the scientist-advocate."
Reiss is a professor of psychology at Hunter College and in the CUNY Biopsychology Graduate Program. In her book, she provides a history of a branch of scientific study that has focused on the high level of intelligence exhibited by dolphins. She also details her own research in the field, including mirror tests she conducted that proved dolphins were able to recognize themselves in a mirror, and therefore they exhibited a certain level of conscious self-awareness that had prior only been observed in humans and advanced primates.
She works with the organization Thinking Animals, Inc., whose mission is to educate the public -- providing them with a scientific and ethical rationale for valuing the intrinsic worth of other species and the importance of their survival. The belief is that the more people understand the cognitive and behavioral complexity of animals-their intelligence, as well as the depth and nature of our evolutionary debt to them-the more they will consider the humane treatment and conservation of animals to be a priority. To read more about the organization and its lecture series, "Exploring Animal Minds" (held at Hunter), please click here.
Reiss's other research focuses on elephant cognition and the evolution of intelligence. She has published papers in many scientific journals, and her work has also been featured in television programs and the film The Cove (2009).
In addition to its role as a comprehensive survey of research on dolphin intelligence, Reiss's book also serves as a means of building support for programs aimed at protecting dolphins from slaughter.
"Dolphins are not people, but they are individual personalities," Reiss said. "There is somebody in there, and I tried to share those somebodies in this book. And I hope with the writing of this book that people will share my experiences with these animals and become as motivated as I am to protect them globally."