We have empathy without godsRats consistently freed their trapped friends in a new study, while ignoring the restraint when it was empty or contained a stuffed rat.

To make sure the rats weren’t responding to some immediate social reward ... the researchers tweaked the apparatus so that trapped rats were released into a separate cage. Again, the rats freed each other. When given the opportunity to eat chocolate treats first, rats were as likely to release their companions first, and even shared the chocolate with them.

Empathy is a truly powerful motivator, on a par with the desire for chocolate!” said de Waal, who was not involved in the new study.

 

This is further evidence that empathy and morality are part of the natural world.

 

Rats Free Trapped Friends, Hint at Universal Empathy
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/rat-empathy/

Helping Your Fellow Rat: Rodents Show Empathy-Driven Behavior, Evidence Suggests
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111208141933.htm

 

Tags: animal, behavior, brain, chocolate, cognition, empathy, helping, intelligence, motivation, pro-social, More…rats, rodents, social

Views: 125

Replies to This Discussion

I heard this story on NPR this morning, and Talk of the Nation was doing a piece on it on their Science Friday section. I found it most intriguing.

As regards that, here's a poser: are there species outside of homo sapiens who exhibit GREED?!?

Some of homo sapiens (about one percent of men not in prison, about half a percent of women not in prison, about twenty percent of men IN PRISON, and about four percent of CEOs) qualify as sociopaths.

For more info than you will digest in a day, search on sociopathy, or "workplace psychopath", or "Robert Hare".

To xians who claim xianity as the source of morality, I tell them of the Code of Hammurabi. It's as cruel as the OT, and may be the OT's source.

I, too, heard this on NPR this a.m. while driving to work.  It is a fascinating story regarding empathy outside of the various species of primates  As to the poser by Loren, and it's been decades (seems like eons) since my days in anthropology, if there is greed outside of homo sapiens, I would start by looking at any research done with our primate relatives.

Or perhaps they have powerful rat-gods that will punish them with an eternity without chocolate if they don't share...

But no, that's really a great story!  I think many people who have worked with humane mouse traps have experienced something like this, where the rats/mice on the outside would open the trap to free their companions.  It's a bit frustrating when you're trying to remove an infestation, but a great experiment. :)

i just read about this - fantastic, isn't it :]  also, seal mothers were tested for caring for their young and there were many individual responses.  fish and crabs feel pain.  i have 4 cats, each one has his/her own personality.  what is happening in the animal behavior area is fascinating.  

n.b. - PHYSorg.com Newsletter is a great source for immediate scientific info.

reminds me of Alfie Kohn's perspective taking - or non-violent communication - or Tom Clark's Naturalism http://www.naturalism.org/

Thanks! I agree with the Nerd - great science indeed!

Thanks for the links. This is a great argument against theist-source morality.

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