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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More on Rats and Empathetic Behavior

Article: Social Experience Drives Empathetic, Pro-Social Behavior in Rats

You may recall video from a study that made the news a short time ago, showing that rats can experience empathy and will work to free a trapped rat even if there is no reward in it for the free rat. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has owned rats, but it is nice to have documented evidence in a legitimate scientific study. Further investigation has been done on this empathetic behavior, and scientists have shown that rats use their experience with other rats to motivate them to free the trapped rat, and not some instinct that recognizes his/her own kind.

In the previous study, the rats would release stranger rats of their own kind (PEW, or albino as the study referred to them). In this new study, scientists documented that rats from an albino strain did not release rats from a black-hooded strain. But, if the rats had been introduced to a black hooded rat previously, they would release a black-hooded rat from the trap, even if they did not know the rat they were releasing. On the other hand, if a rat from an albino strain was fostered to a rat from a hooded strain and had no prior contact with any rats from his own albino strain, that rat would not release albino rats from the trap.

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