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Rats Feel Each Other's Pain 200

sciencehabit writes "Empathy lets us feel another person's pain and drives us to help ease it. But is empathy a uniquely human trait? For decades researchers have debated whether nonhuman animals possess this attribute. Now a new study shows that rats will free a trapped cagemate in distress. The results mean that these rodents can be used to help determine the genetic and physiological underpinnings of empathy in people."
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Rats Feel Each Other's Pain

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  • Not surprised (Score:4, Informative)

    by milbournosphere ( 1273186 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @11:27AM (#38314888)
    The pet rats I've had have consistently showed intelligence, high social awareness, and genuine creativity when playing with me or their cage mates. It doesn't surprise me in the least that they would feel concern and/or empathy towards members of their social circle. These little creatures are much more complex than most people give them credit for...
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Friday December 09, 2011 @11:29AM (#38314900)

    This study adds useful new information, but it's not the first finding of animals exhibiting what's sometimes called "directed altruism", helping another animal in response to what appears to be communication of emotional state. Even Darwin remarked that "many animals certainly sympathize with each other’s distress or
    danger", though of course his evidence for that claim wasn't up to modern standards.

    Here's [] an interesting review from 2008.

  • by HopefulIntern ( 1759406 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @11:32AM (#38314940)
    Could have just given the rats the Voight-Kampff test.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @11:39AM (#38315042)

    when you place an unconscious rat in a cage with conscious rats, the first thing they do is run over and eat the unconscious rats eyes out.

    i know this from first hand experience. watching it happen, while doing research as an undergrad. i was horrified. the postdoc looked over and was like "oh yeah, that's why we always separate them after giving them an injection to give them time to wake up. did i forget to tell you that part?"

    rats and other rodents also never act sick. ever. even if they have a broken leg or severe infection, they'll continue acting like normal rats, for fear (i assume?) that the second they show any kind of weakness, the other rats will gang up on them and eat them.

  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @11:43AM (#38315088) Journal
    This just in, rats morally superior to alarming percentage of humans...
  • Re:Not surprised (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @11:49AM (#38315164)

    You don't need an experiment to figure it out, but you need an experiment to confirm it.

  • Re:"Empathy Tests" (Score:5, Informative)

    by codeAlDente ( 1643257 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @01:21PM (#38316266)
    1960 preceded the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In much of the south, blacks were considered the equivalent of beasts. The Catholic Church still abducted native Americans from their families and put them in Catholic schools, reasoning that their tribal culture did not meet the standards of rational thought. For a more academic viewpoint, check out the 1971 book The Pre-Columbian Mind, where a MD/historian Francisco Guerra weighs historical evidence to promote the viewpoint that people living in indigenous societies were indeed capable of rational thought. Or, maybe have a look into the Eugenics movement. [] It's unwise to assume that the vast majority holds your intelligent, enlightened opinions.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.