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Study Shows Them Nice

December 9, 2011 by staff 

Study Shows Them Nice, New experiments show rats demonstrating compassion and helping other rodents. It is a trait some scientists thought was reserved only for humans and higher primates.

And it is certainly not the sneaky, selfish rap that goes with calling someone a dirty rat. In repeated tests, rats freed another trapped rat in their cage, even when yummy chocolate served as a tempting distraction. Twenty-three of the 30 rats opened the trap by pushing in a door. The rats could have gobbled the chocolate before freeing their partners, but often didn’t, choosing to help and share the goodies.

“Basically they told us (freeing another rat) is as important as eating chocolate,” said study author Peggy Mason of the University of Chicago. “That’s a very striking thing.”

In some cases, the rats first took the chocolate chips out of a container, but didn’t eat them, then freed the other rat and shared “almost as if they were serving them chocolate,” Mason said. The research is reported in Thursday’s journal Science.

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