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Science Idle

Study: Rats Regret Making the Wrong Decision 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-should-have-been-a-cat dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered that rats in a decision making experiment showed three behaviors consistent with regret. David Redish and his graduate student Adam Steiner '...trained rats to do a task they call "restaurant row." The rat ran around a circle past a series of four spokes, each leading to a different flavor of food. As the rat came to the entrance of each spoke, a tone sounded that indicated how long it would have to wait to receive that specific flavor of food. The rat could choose whether to stay or go, depending on how much it liked that food and how long it would have to wait...The rats showed three behaviors consistent with regret. First, the rats only looked backwards in the regret conditions, and not in the disappointment conditions. Second, they were more likely to take a bad deal if they had just passed up a good deal. And third, instead of taking their time eating and then grooming themselves afterwards, the rats in the regret conditions wolfed down the food and immediately took off to the next restaurant.'"
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Study: Rats Regret Making the Wrong Decision

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  • Wow. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    That means even a rat is more ethical/honorable than former U.S. president George W. Bush.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This experiment says nothing of rat ethics. Their decisions affected them alone. In the case of politicians, that's hardly ever the case.
      If the rat could send a group of rats to murder another group of rats they had never seen before so that a third group of rats would win a lot of food and give the first rat a tiny share, then it'd be similar to what you refer to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Arker (91948)
      "That means even a rat is more ethical/honorable than former U.S. president George W. Bush."

      I have to disagree. There is no ethics or honor demonstrated here, simply regret over not getting a particular treat.

      In order to be ethical or unethical you first must have the mental capability to frame ethical questions and grasp ethical concepts, and all evidence indicates rats and most if not all other animals on the planet cannot do that, so they can be neither ethical nor unethical. There is no point in accusin
      • by Anonymous Coward

        In order to be ethical or unethical you first must have the mental capability to frame ethical questions and grasp ethical concepts, and all evidence indicates rats and most if not all other animals on the planet cannot do that

        It is pretty well documented that Washoe [newser.com] could grasp ethical concepts.
        There are other tests that have been done where simians show to have a pretty good grasp of "unfairness".

        When it comes to non-simian mammals there have been recordings of carnivores appearing to show guilt after realizing that their prey was pregnant.
        Where the prey had newborns there have been cases where the carnivore have adopted/protected the child.
        It can be speculated whether this behavior is a built-in response where all mammals find

        • by Arker (91948)
          Yeah it's actually pretty well established Washoe could do nothing of the kind. She had a functional vocabulary of ~300-350 words IIRC, between half to a third of the basic vocabulary needed to function at the same level as a severely retarded human. This is a vocabulary consisting entirely of concrete referents with abstraction present only at a very basic level. Her accomplishments were significant, and Chimpanzees (like all of us Apes) are quite intelligent in comparison to most animals, but she never sh
    • As Hillary Clinton says: "What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?"

    • That means even a rat is more ethical/honorable than former U.S. president George W. Bush.

      Yeah, and every other politician too. And most of the mainstream media. Or maybe the latter is merely incompetent...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You meant Obama obviously.

  • by thieh (3654731)
    "Oh drat." - Said the rat who got caught in the mouse trap
  • Duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556)

    I'm not sure which emotions would go through my mind as the boa constrictor tightened its grip, but I'd imagine regret would be among them.

    Gods, it's awesome being on the top of the food chain....

    • ... said the victim while the tiger crouched...

      • Re:Duh (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:11AM (#47193055)

        Really. Its a "food web", plenty of interactions between species. If you wanted to place any specie on the "top" of the food chain, it would be an apex preditor, which is not a very secure niche at all, any problem and the whole heap "simplifies", removing you first. (Tigers are endangered, phytoplankton, not so much)
                Level 1: Plants and algae make their own food and are called primary producers.
                Level 2: Herbivores eat plants and are called primary consumers.
                Level 3: Carnivores that eat herbivores are called secondary consumers.
                Level 4: Carnivores that eat other carnivores are called tertiary consumers.
                Level 5: Apex predators that have no predators are at the top of the food chain.
          A team of French researchers set about calculating the human trophic level (HTL) for every country for which data is available, and their results were published in PNAS. They found that the global HTL average is 2.21, which puts the human diet on par with pigs and anchovies.
        So we are slightly below the middle for the average diet.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexberezow/2013/12/03/humans-arent-at-the-top-of-the-food-chain/
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophic_level

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      I'm not sure which emotions would go through my mind as the boa constrictor tightened its grip, but I'd imagine regret would be among them.

      Gods, it's awesome being on the top of the food chain....

      I hate to break it to you, but you're not at the top.

      Go camping without a firearm in Africa, a South American jungle, or the Arctic to experience regret.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Humans lived successfully in each region for millennia, and eventually learned to hunt just about anything. No firearm required. The shovel would have been an amazingly useful tool for the primitive man faced with a large aggressor, however. Now, sans firearm, it's just a matter of a tiger trap and patience.

        • Now, sans firearm, it's just a matter of a tiger trap and patience.

          In "Africa, a South American jungle, or the Arctic", that would geological-level patience...

          • by lgw (121541)

            Have you seen a group take down an elephant with spears? There are a few videos. Dangerous stuff. A tiger trap would make short work of an elephant - heck, a covered pit about 3 feet deep would do it IIRC. Just as well - I like elephants.

            Hmm, give the elephants the elusive "shovel" technology and the world would be a more interesting place.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Go camping without a firearm in Africa, a South American jungle, or the Arctic to experience regret.

        Why would I do that? That makes as much sense as my cat asking me to declaw and detooth her.

    • My ninth grade science teacher had a boa constrictor and decided to show us a feeding one day. He put the snake on one side of a walled off area and a mouse on the other side. The mouse calmly walked up to the snake and sniffed its nose. One blink later (literally, it was that fast), the snake was coiled around the mouse with its mouth over the mouse's head. The mouse tried struggling for a few seconds but quickly went limp.

      I honestly don't think there would be enough time for regret if a boa wrapped ar

  • by Culture20 (968837)
    Looking around for other food immediately? They could have just been hungry.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Clearly you're not spending much time writing grant appications these days.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        > Clearly you're not spending much time writing grant appications these days.

        And even less time reading TFA...

  • Not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @09:28PM (#47192599)

    It's not really that surprising. Rats are pretty smart. Especially compared to many other rodents. My daughter had a pet rat, it was pretty surprising how attached my wife got to it. We had originally planned to let her get two rats because they are very social and do better in pairs. But the one my daughter picked did not like other rats at all. The people at the pet store said that she got into some pretty nasty fights with any other rats, even the ones from her original litter. But she really craved human interaction. My daughter forgot to lock her cage once. It was within the first two week of her getting the rat. It was not even five minutes later that my wife looked down because she felt something on her foot. The rat almost immediately found my wife and was trying to climb her leg.

    Food is the best way to train a rat. we noticed that the one my daughter had would often times turn down food it liked if it thought we had something else that it liked better. I don't think I've seen too many other animals that would do that.

    • by sjwt (161428)

      My pet rat used to get out and play with the cat, kind of like a tag and hide game.. I dont know if they were playing the same game, but years later my brother had a Chihuahua and it used to play in the back yard with a wild rat.. it played tag some days for hours.. chasing after the rat, taping it, then running from it whilst it was being chased.. so funny..

    • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Informative)

      by shadowrat (1069614) on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:49AM (#47193287)
      In a former life, i worked at a pet store. People would often come in looking for a hamster or gerbil. I'd say, "ok, but first let me show you these rats."

      Most people balked at the idea. Every once in a while someone would recognize that spark of intelligence, friendliness and curiosity that makes them such wonderful pets. Those people who purchased a rat invariably came back to tell me what a wonderful pet it was. Often times they would come back for their next rat years later. By years, i of course mean just 2ish. The unfortunate thing about pet rats is they just don't live that long.
      • The unfortunate thing about pet rats is they just don't live that long.

        *nodnod* I'm hoping the Gambian Pouched Rat will be domesticated more over the years. Their lifespans are ~8 years. APOPO seems to be doing okay with them so far.

        Also, I would mod you up if I could just based on your username.

      • by antdude (79039)

        What about mice? :P

        • Mice are nice. They don't seem quite as affectionate and cuddly as a rat. It might be that they are just so small they are hard to really interact with. The biggest issue with mice as a pet is their metabolisms are much faster. That means that stuff that went into the mouse is coming back out on a much shorter timeline. They do have a lot of the benefits of rats though.
      • by phorm (591458)

        For a lot of people the "ick" factor seems to center around the long bald tails of the rat. I'm not really sure why.
        I've had various rats over the years. I generally go for females as the males tend to be rather well endowed, and I didn't really want them running up my arm dragging their business over my skin :-)

    • by mjwx (966435)

      I don't think I've seen too many other animals that would do that.

      Cats, dogs, birds.

      Pretty much most of the "pet" section of animals will do that.

      Wild seagulls will avoid other less palatable forms of food if they know humans have more palatable food... This is why you never feed the seagulls (same with feeding the bears, it invites them back).

    • My dogs like their food, but they won't touch it until after dinner. They spend all day mooching for human food and only eat the dog food when they know they have got all the human food they are going to get for the day.
  • Centuries of mob rats can attest to this. Interesting that it can jump species in this manner.
  • I thought politicians were shameless.
    • by PPH (736903)

      The politicians grabbed all four food dishes. And charged the meals to their re-election fund.

  • Corollary: Rats are smarter than people who keep voting for Democrats or Republicans.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bondsbw (888959)

      I voted independent last election and I agree that it's stupid that we continue to live with this voting system. But I can't blame people for not throwing away their vote.

      You work the system you have. We need to change the system we have.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        > But I can't blame people for not throwing away their vote.

        Voting for one side of the coin IS throwing away their vote. I can see how someone might not realize it, but it is because one of those two parties is going to win and as long as they keep trading votes back and forth there is no incentive to reform. The only time they have incentive to change is when they fear losing votes to something new - a 3rd party. That 3rd party does not even need to win in order to force one of the big two to adopt its

        • by digsbo (1292334)

          This is why I refuse to vote for Republicans (broadly), even though they think I should vote for them. I'm perfectly happy to help clean house in the GOP by convincing fiscal conservatives to stop supporting the GOP until they roll over and live up to their promises of small government (which for me includes noninterventionist foreign policy, staying out of the bedroom, getting out of the "war on drugs", etc.).

          I'm certainly not going to convince leftists of the need for economic freedom, but if I can help m

    • by Trepidity (597)

      You haven't see what a rat election looks like.

    • by Jumunquo (2988827)

      That's why I always write-in myself for all positions.

  • I know them very well.

    If they want to salve their consciences, all they have to do is pay up.
  • When the rats ran off after wolfing down their disappointing meal to wait for their next meal, did they simply groom themselves while waiting for then next one instead of immediately before leaving? That just seems like they're being hungry or efficient, not regretful.

  • by BurningTyger (626316) on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:51AM (#47193293)

    What can change the nature of a rat ?

    Now we know scientifically it's regret (and not "Many-as-One")

  • None of them are able to express regret at a bad decision ;-)
    • by MadKeithV (102058)

      None of them are able to express regret at a bad decision ;-)

      Fool. Women don't make bad decisions - it's just that reality reacts badly.

  • by ThatAblaze (1723456) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:35AM (#47193579)

    They have created a maze that inevitably leads to rats regretting their decisions, no matter what logic they use to make them. Do you know what this means? We've given rats a taste of politics!

  • It is really comforting that someone is out there to share my guilt.
  • I feel really bad when I trap a mouse or a rat, which I had to do a couple days ago. I prefer nonlethal traps when they work, but sometimes they don't, and on Saturday I managed to trap one in a way that badly hurt but didn't kill it. I felt really bad. I understand that they are intelligent and sentient creatures. They don't belong in our food, and the diseases they carry don't belong in our home, so I do have to deal with them from time to time. But I so much wish that non-lethal traps actually worke
    • If you want to catch them without hurting them traps are a bad idea. I have found using a small blanket to catch them manually to be the safest and most humane way of doing it.

  • Something something that tasty looking cheese.
  • Humans do not react to thwarted interest similarly.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

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