A person with autism, Dr. Temple Grandin , a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, has become famous in the animal world for her ability to understand the nature of how animals think. She says autism makes her a visual thinker and believes animals see the world in the same way.
The proof, they say, is in the pudding. Grandin has been instrumental in designing more humane slaugherhouses and understands the need for the industry to pay attention to details that can cause fear and panic in livestock.
“Cattle is a prey species that scares easily,” she says. “And I can really relate to that.”
Indeed, in seeing the world as animals do, she helps bridge the gap between abstract ideas and practical applications of working with animals. In a short video, she explains how something as simple as a chain left dangling can frighten cattle from approaching a food trough. “Animals are hyper-sensitive to details,” says Grandin. “People tend to ignore detail. The autistic brains sees all the details. Animals have sensory-based memories. Sensory-based memories are more detailed than word-based memories.”
Because of her insight, Grandin can anticipate some of the visual cues that will lead livestock to the panic and fear. Not just theory, her work has proven extremely accurate out in the field. She really does understand how their minds work.
All of her books on animals are insightful and a must read for anyone wanting to better understand the animal psyche. Her latest book with Catherine Johnson, Animals Make Us Human, explores the emotional life of house pets, zoo animals, and farm animals.