Monday, April 14, 2014

If rodents can do it..

This article is paired with a video of rats that had been observed in a laboratory. The psychologist were looking for a pro-social helping behavior. The helping behavior seen in the video is set of by empathy and is the first time it was seen done by rats. This experiment is especially successful and informative because there is no advanced technology used. Two rats are put into a cage, one is restrained in a container where the door can be opened from the outside. At first the free rat was hesitant to help the other, but after a few round the rat was able to slide the container door and free his cagemate.

Once the rat learned how to open the container, he would immediately help his cagemate get free. It was stressed in the article that they were not teaching these rats any skills. The rats were learning by themselves based on an internal need to help their companions. There were many variables added to the experiments.  The psychologist also added a toy rat into the cage. When this was the case the free rat would not try to open the cage.

This essentially means that the rats were motivated by hearing their cagemates in distress and the need of social interaction above anything else. This was tested when two containers were put into the cage. One with a rat and the other with chocolate chips. Most of the time the free rat would open his companions container first even though he could have eaten the chips first. This kind of behavior opens up a lot of playing field for understanding that it is not unique only to humans. On that note as well it would be interesting to think of how humans would act in a scenario like this. Obviously it would be much more complicated, but it does have a simple principle. Would you help someone in distress if you have an opportunity to benefit yourself first? It rodents can do it...

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