Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Helping Your Fellow Rat: Rodents Seem to Show Empathic Behavior

The first evidence of empathy-driven helping behavior in rodents has been observed in laboratory rats that repeatedly free companions from a restraint, according to a new study by University of Chicago neuroscientists ..."There was no other reason to take this action, except to terminate the distress of the trapped rats," Bartal said. "In the rat model world, seeing the same behavior repeated over and over basically means that this action is rewarding to the rat." As a test of the power of this reward, another experiment was designed to give the free rats a choice: free their companion or feast on chocolate. Two restrainers were placed in the cage with the rat, one containing the cagemate, another containing a pile of chocolate chips. Though the free rat had the option of eating all the chocolate before freeing its companion, the rat was equally likely to open the restrainer containing the cagemate before opening the chocolate container. more

1 comment:

Matt Normand said...

This story has been making the rounds. I was hesitant to post it, given the dubious assumptions posed as explanations. Still, the data are interesting even if the interpretation leaves something to be desired.