Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Social Experience Drives Empathetic, Pro-Social Behavior in Rats

Empathy-driven behavior has been observed in rats who will free trapped companions from restrainers. This behavior also extends toward strangers, but requires prior, positive social interactions with the type (strain) of the unfamiliar individual, report scientists from the University of Chicago in the open access journal eLife, on Jan. 14. The findings suggest that social experiences, not genetics or kin selection, determine whether an individual will help strangers out of empathy. The importance of social experience extends even to rats of the same strain -- a rat fostered and raised with a strain different than itself will not help strangers of its own kind. more

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