Posted in: Science

Rats Free Friends, Show Compassion and Empathy

rats

According to movies, rats are disgusting, greedy, and filthy creatures. According to a recent study at the University of Chicago, rats are empathetic, compassionate, and masters at organizing a prison break. A new study shows that rats will almost always attempt to free their caged friends

Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted a series of experiments involving two rats in a shared compartment. One rat was allowed to roam free while the other was trapped in a tiny cage.

News.com reports that once the rats learned how to open the tiny cage, they almost always chose to free their friends. The researchers found that the rats nearly always to help out their distressed friends even when chocolate was offered as an alternative.

Jean Decety, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, said:

“There are a lot of ideas in the literature showing that empathy is not unique to humans, and it has been well demonstrated in apes, but in rodents it was not very clear. We put together in one series of experiments evidence of helping behavior based on empathy in rodents, and that’s really the first time it’s been seen.”

The researchers are still conducting experiments to see if the rats were motivated by anything other than empathy. They’ve determined that the rats were not motivated by the idea of social interaction, because they chose to free their friends even when the trapped rat was freed into another compartment, and that they were not simply performing a routine trick, because they didn’t open the trap when a fake rat was placed in the cage.

Do you think rats are capable of compassion and empathy?

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Comments

14 Responses to “Rats Free Friends, Show Compassion and Empathy”

  1. Craig Lassner

    On the one hand it's unfortunate that humans feel the need to do experiments on this, but on the other hand…

  2. Theresa Nielsen

    Unbelievable that people STILL think animals have no feelings, no compassion, no empathy. I'm glad that at least these guys are doing science whereby sometime in the future it will be written in science books and accepted as total fact to all humans.

  3. Anna Renee Zudell

    I know they are capable of compassion and empathy, I've had a few pet rats.

  4. Xochitl Campos Magallanes

    Stupidest comment ever. No religion has ever deined that an animal is capable of feeling. In fact animals' sense of compassion is often used as an example. Way to throw your misguided and ignorant understandings around.

  5. James Lorenz Brooks

    Being a rat owner, Yeah, I think rats are full of compassion and empathy cause on my gloomiest days my pet rat is always out of her house crawling around on my shoulders making me feel better.

  6. Nicole A Wilmoth

    I hate that the rats are being killed. I would love to know what breed of rat they are and how can I get one or two.

  7. Kimberly Passmore

    Rats are so smart and sweet! We used to have an amazing pet rat. They are as smart as dogs and loyal. Very social. Rats in the wild…well, any animal in the wild might carry disease or try to bite you. That is not an indicator of the behavior of the species as a whole. I hate when people talk badly about rats.

  8. Paddy Head

    Rats must be very much like humans. Why else would they be used so often for researh in labs?
    Having said that, I'm totally against using animals for research.