A new study which has been completed on rats has revealed that these creatures are hard-wired to help each other even when they are tempted with chocolate. The rats display a noble character trait which means that they would sooner help a fellow member of their species, than indulge in a food substance that they would otherwise find irresistible.
Peggy Mason was the neurobiologist who co-authored the study on empathy shown by rats, the results which were found were published in the academic journal ‘Science’. The research included rats, chocolate and a diabolical trap, and it was to check whether these rodents would become involved in pro-social behaviour.
Studies which were carried out in the past had shown that rats really sympathize with the distress displayed by others. Rats are very clever creatures, quite capable of learning quickly and surviving and this test just reconfirmed their problem solving skills they have.
Mason who is also a Professor at the University of Chicago said that the what was displayed by the mice was the most rudimentary form of empathy, she revealed that her and her team wanted to check the behaviour of the rats when faced with someone who was distressed could do with being rescued. This is fundamental and central act to any social group anywhere.
The experiment involved Mason and her team taking pairs of rats and placing them into Plexiglas area. One of the rats was placed into a holding tube which could only be opened from the outside, while the other rat was outside the tube.
The rat outside the tube was able to smell and touch the trapped rat through the breaks in the tube, in total the team waited for around 40 minutes to check whether or not the free rat would try and release the trapped one.
Able to free the trapped under a minute
All that was required was to flip open the tube’s door, after which the rat in confinement would be released. The study took place over seven days, in this time the rats dug and scratched at the trap, once the free rats learnt how to liberate the trapped rats they were able to free them in around a minute.
The rats did not try and open the traps that contained a toy rat or ones which were empty, this meant that they were aware of a distressed rat and subsequently did their best to free them. The findings also revealed that female rats are more sympathetic, as they were the ones that were more likely to try and free the prisoners.
“We basically wanted to sat to the rat, ‘How valuable is it to you to liberate the trapped rat?’”