Science Says Rats Love Their Friends More Than Food. Do You?
The Debrief: It turns out rats are super friendly, so what can we learn from them?
Rats get a bad rap a lot of the time. They scurry around with those big teeth and those long tails and eat into bin bags of the gross stuff you begged your flatmate to take out, like, a week ago.
Well, it's time to change your perceptions of rats, as it's just been discovered by a bunch of Japanese scientists that rats prefer their friends to chocolate.
Nobuya Sato of Kwansei University, revealed their findings in Animal Cognition. The study started off by putting rats into a container with a split between it. On one side, a rat was forced to swim (there was a little ledge to stop little science ratty from dying) and on the other, a rat just hung out in the dry. While rat A struggled to stay afloat, rat B could push a door to release the other one. The dry rats (100% of females and 70% of males) soon learned how to help the wet rats, especially if they'd had a previous soaking: 'Rats that had previously experienced a soaking were quicker to learn how to help a cage-mate than those that had never been soaked.'
A second test was done to prove that rats really just care about each other's wellbeing and didn't just want someone to hang out with. Both rats were put in dry containers with a little door between them. The rats mostly CBA to open the door, which means that in the first test, they they really did want to help out their fellow rats-in-peril.
Finally, the scientists did the chocolate portion of the test. They basically gave rats the choice of saving their sodden swimming mate or opening a separate door where they could find some chocolate. What did they do? They chose their fellow rats. And these rats were from different litters – they weren't even mates or relatives!
And what can we learn from this? Either that if rats can prioritise other rats over frivolous treats like chocolate then so can we – eg chat to our friends at parties instead of scurrying off to do drugs or smoke or whatever. Or that rats just don't like chocolate and prefer to eat the leftover bones from a box of KFC in the middle of a dingy street where the binmen have been on strike for a week.
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