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Rats Feel Each Other's Pain

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-wonder-my-rat-gladiator-farm-never-took-off dept.

Science 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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200 comments

Misleading Headline (5, Funny)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314746)

I thought this was going to be an article about the current election cycle.

Re:Misleading Headline (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314820)

Politicians don't have empathy, they simulate it.

Re:Misleading Headline (4, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314848)

They all too often do have a feral pack protection instinct, though.

Re:Misleading Headline (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315046)

I can't decide whether to mod this funny or insightful.

Re:Misleading Headline (4, Funny)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315186)

I feel your pain bro.

Re:Misleading Headline (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315730)

Now that you've commented, you ain't modding anything.

Re:Misleading Headline (0)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314844)

I thought this was going to be an article about the current election cycle.

You must have focused on the word 'rodent', and missed the terms 'empathy' and 'human'.

It's an easy mistake, anyone could have made it.

Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38314752)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314808)

I give, filtering AC's out.

Re:Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38314822)

Rose Nylund enters the house. Dorothy Zbornak and Sophia Petrillo are sitting on the couch reading.

Rose: Girls! Girls, guess what.
Sophia: Wait a minute.
Rose: I’ve got
Sophia: Wait a minute! Why do you always come into a room, and say, “Girls, girls?” Do you see Molly Ringwald sitting here?
Rose: You’re awfully cranky today.
Sophia: Well, forgive me. My arthritis is bothering me, my social security check was late, and I realized today I haven’t showered with a man in twenty-two years.
Dorothy: Ma, pop’s been dead twenty-seven years.
Sophia: What’s your point?
Dorothy: What are you saying?
Rose: Isn’t it obvious, Dorothy? She showered with a dead man for five years.

Rose Nylund takes a seat.

Dorothy: Rose, what did you want?
Rose: I got two tickets to the hottest Norwegian musical in town.
Dorothy: Rose, you’ve really tempted me, but I have other plans.
Rose: You have a date?

Sophia Petrillo gags.

Sophia: Never say that while I’m eating.
Dorothy: I’m teaching history for an adult-education program. It’s for people who never got high school diplomas.
Rose: What else do they teach?
Dorothy: The usual high school subjects.
Rose: You mean like the three Rs – reading, writing and rooster inseminating?
Dorothy: No, we just teach the first two Rs.
Rose: Find. But you’ll be sending people out into the world who don’t know you can get a nasty rooster bite if you don’t warm your hands up first.

Blanche Devereaux prances to the living room.

Blanche: Girls, is this dress me?
Sophia: It’s too tight, it’s too short, and it shows too much cleavage for a woman your age.
Dorothy: Yes, Blanche, it’s you.
Rose: Another date with your mystery man?
Blanche: Oh, he’s no mystery man.
Dorothy: No? Then how come you’ve been out with him four times, we don’t know anything about him?
Blanche: Well, there is one little thing.

Blanche laughs as she puts on more make-up. The doorbell rings.

Blanche: Oh, that must be him. Rose, would you get the door, please?

Rose Nylund opens the door. An elderly man with all-white hair greets her with a Hispanic accent.

Man: Hello.
Rose: Oh, hello. We thought you were Blanche’s date, but you’re way too old.

The man sees Blanche.

Man: Hola, Blanche!
Blanche: Hello, sweetheart.

Blanche Devereaux walks over to her date.

Blanche: Come here! I want you to meet all my friends.
Rose: Please forgive me. It wasn’t my fault – my cousins have been marrying each other for generations. I’m sorry.
Blanche: Everybody, this is Fidel Santiago.
Dorothy: How do you do? Very nice to meet you.
Fidel: It is always a pleasure to meet beautiful ladies such as yourselves.

Sophia Petrillo turns to her daughter.

Sophia: With that accent, you could almost buy it.
Fidel: And you must be Sophia.
Sophia: Your face looks awfully familiar. Was your picture ever on a cigar box?
Dorothy: Ma!
Fidel: No, she’s right. That was my father.
Sophia: May we continue, Commandant?
Fidel: My family once owned the largest tobacco plantation in all of Cuba. Do you know that at one time, I was the most famous Fidel in the entire country? Until you-know-who showed up.
Rose: Who?
Dorothy: Rex the Wonder Horse, Rose.
Fidel: How did you know about Santiago cigars?
Sophia: My husband was a fan – not of the cigars, the boxes. We used to keep all our fine cutlery in one.
Fidel: Blanche was right. She said you were incorrigible.
Sophia: I guess I deserve it. I always say she’s a cheap slut.
Blanche: Maybe we’d better be going.
Fidel: Yes. It was a pleasure meeting you all.

Blance Devereaux and Fidel Santiago leave.

Dorothy: Well, I guess that solves the mystery.
Sophia: I’ll say. Who would have thought Blanche would date somebody that long in the tooth?
Rose: I thought his teeth were nice. What I couldn’t believe was how old he was.
Dorothy: You know, sometimes I really cannot believe my ears.
Sophia: I know. I should’ve taped them back when you were seven.

Dorothy Zbornak enters the classroom.

Dorothy: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Please take your seats.

Dorothy walks over to her desk, and reads from her notebook.

Dorothy: Uh, Jorge Vega?

Jorge Vega waves.

Dorothy: Michael Fachik?

Michael raises his hand.

Dorothy: Jim Shu?

Dorothy Zbornak, her eyes now wide, reads it again.

Dorothy: Jim Shu?! Oh, I get it gym shoe. Very funny.

A Japanese man in a vest and tie stands up.

Jim: Excuse me. I am Jim Shu.
Dorothy: I’m terribly sorry. I thought you were pulling my leg.
Jim: I don’t think I could drink that much sake.
Dorothy: Sit down, Shu.

Dorothy resumes her roll call.

Dorothy: Maria Gianelli?

Maria waves her hand.

Dorothy: Rose Nylund? Rose NyRose Ny

Embarrassed Rose Nylund slowly raises her hand. Shocked Dorothy Zbornak walks over to Rose.

Dorothy: Rose, what are you doing here?
Rose: Dorothy, I have a confession to make. I slipped through the cracks of the St. Olaf school system.
Dorothy: That’s very hard to believe. I’ve seen you almost complete a TV Guide crossword puzzle.
Rose: It’s true. You’re looking at a woman without a sheepskin.
Jim: I’ve got an extra in my wallet I could give you.

Rose turns to Jim Shu who is sitting right behind her.

Rose: No, thanks. I’d rather earn it.
Jim: Meet you at Benihana after class?

Rose looks irked.

Dorothy: Rose. Rose!

Dorothy grabs her by the hand, and pulls her aside.

Dorothy: You never graduated from high school?
Rose: Not officially. Three weeks before graduation, I was asked to be in the kissing booth at the founders’ day fair. Unfortunately, the first boy I kissed had a nasty case of mono. That afternoon, I passed it along to fifty young men, and one very confused female P.E. teacher who smelled of Old Spice. I slept day and night for the next six months, and when I finally woke up I had missed my graduation and the integration of major-league baseball.
Dorothy: Rose, I—I’m very sorry, but, honey, you cannot stay in this class.
Rose: Oh please, Dorothy. I’ve secretly dreamt of getting a high school diploma for years, but I never had the courage to do it. Now, with you teaching, I finally feel comfortable enough to give it a try.
Dorothy: Oh, all right.

Dorothy gives Rose a hug.

Dorothy: All right, you can stay.
Rose: Thank you.

Rose Nylund returns to her seat awkwardly, because Jim Shu looks at her with a big smile on his face.

Dorothy: All right, everybody, if you will turn to page five.

Rose Nylund raises her hand.

Dorothy: Yes, Rose?
Rose: Aren’t you forgetting something?
Dorothy: What?

Rose stands up, turns to the flag then puts her hand over her chest.

Rose: I pledge allegiance to the flag

The rest of the class quickly stands up, and does the same.

All: Of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands

The next morning, Dorothy is in the kitchen checking test papers when Rose arrives.

Rose: Hi, Dorothy. What are you doing?
Dorothy: I’m grading the history test.
Rose: How did I do?
Dorothy: You’ll find out in class tomorrow.
Rose: Can you give me a hint?
Dorothy: No.
Rose: Did I do better than Boris Yushenko?
Dorothy: Oh, Rose! Boris Yushenko doesn’t speak a word of English, and he was hit on the forehead with a mortar during World War II.
Rose: Did I do better than him?
Dorothy: No.
Rose: I’m a failure.
Dorothy: Rose, you are not. Now, come on, you are doing very well in every subject except history.
Rose: Well, I’m not surprised. It’s all because of my high school history teacher, Mr. Stickelmeyer. He was a Nazi.
Dorothy: Oh, come on. Rose, a lot of students don’t like their teachers.
Rose: No, I mean it. He was part of a nefarious plot by the Germans to teach misinformation so America’s youth would be really stupid when the Germans invaded. St. Olaf was the first town chosen for their experiment.
Dorothy: I guess they figured they had a leg-up there.
Rose: His orders came right from the top.
Dorothy: You mean Hitler?
Rose: Who’s Hitler?
Dorothy: You are bad at history.

Blanche Devereux barges in the kitchen.

Blanche: Girls, I am just beside myself. Fidel’s seeing another woman.
Dorothy: Are you sure?
Blanche: Yes. We used to see each other constantly. Now, I’m lucky to see him twice a week. If he’s not seeing another woman, what else could he be doing?
Rose: Maybe he paints, like Red Skeleton.
Dorothy: Rose, would you please hand me my grade book?
Rose: Sure.

Rose hands Dorothy her grade book.

Dorothy: Thank you.

Dorothy hits Rose on the head with the grade book.

Dorothy: You were saying, Blanche?
Blanche: Well, it’s just breaking my heart. I’ve never cared for a man as much as Fidel Santa Domingo.
Dorothy: Santiago.
Blanche: Oh, whatever. The point is, he’s rich, he’s handsome and we were made for each other even if I don’t speak Mexican.
Dorothy: Spanish.
Blanche: Whatever. I just don’t know what I’m gonna do.

Blanche takes a seat.

Dorothy: Oh now, calm down, Blanche. There’s probably a very logical explanation.
Blanche: You know. You’re probably right. Oh, why would Fidel want another woman? After all, he’s dipped his toes in the lake known as Blanche.

Rose turns to Dorothy.

Rose: That wasn’t stupid enough to deserve a hit?
Dorothy: Do you know what I’m gonna do?

Rose covers her head with her hands.

Dorothy: Put your hands down, Rose. I was going to say, since we all had such a bad day. Let’s all go out for dinner. It’s on me.
Blanche: Oh!
Rose: Sounds great1

Blanche stands up.

Blanche: I’ll go get my purse.
Rose: Wow! Dinner out with the girls!

Blanche exits the kitchen. Rose gets up her seat.

Rose: Oh, let’s really get crazy. We’ll eat Chinese and use forks.

Rose chuckles.

Rose: I know. I know. We’ll pretend it’s one of our birthdays and screw ‘em out of a cake.

Rose laughs. Dorothy walks over to Rose.

Rose: Boy, if I wasn’t going, I’d really be jealous of me. But I am going, so that’s all irrelevant.
Dorothy: Rose, did I hit you too hard before?
Rose: No, not at all. I’m trying a new hairspray and it absorbs most of the impact.

That night, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose are out at a park having ice cream.

Dorothy: Thanks for dinner, Dorothy. It was delicious.
Blanche: Oh, I really enjoyed it too. In fact, I had such a good time, I forgot all about what’s-his-name.
Rose: Fidel.
Blanche: Oh, honey, I know what his name is.
Rose: No, I mean there he is.

The girls turn around to look at where Rose is looking.

Rose: And he has his arms around another woman.

Blance Devereaux angrily walks towards Fidel Santiago.

Blanche: Fidel Santiago!
Fidel: My papers are in order!

Fidel Santiago turns around.

Fidel: Oh. Hello, Blanche.
Blanche: What in hell is going on here?
Fidel: Blanche, I
Blanche: How could you be so deceitful? What is it? Is she younger, more attractive, more desirable?

Sophia Petrillo who has been standing behind Fidel Santiago now stands beside the man.

Sophia: You got to out of three, Blanche.
Blanche: Sophia, what in hell is going on here?
Sophia: He’s a man. I’m a woman. I’ve got what it takes and he knows how to use it.

Dorothy Zbornak turns to Rose Nylund.

Dorothy: I think I’m gonna lose my lunch.
Fidel: Blanche, listen.
Sophia: Fidel, don’t sugarcoat it for her. Look, we happen to be an item. I’m wearing his MedicAlert bracelet.

Sophia shows Blanche the bracelet.

Blanche: When did this start?
Fidel: Well, I have been allergic to penicillin ever since
Blanche: Oh, not that! I mean this sick relationship.
Fidel: Por favor, let me explain. I still care for you deeply. I did not mean for this to happen, it just did when I would go to pick you up, I would always talk to Sophia while I was waiting, and to my delight I found her to be very
Sophia: Hot.
Fidel: Interesting. Look, ladies, I am so glad that this is all out in the open. You are both wonderful women, and I want to continue seeing both of you. But of course that is a decision that you will have to make. Now, if you will excuse me. It’s time for me to change into my third linen suit of the day. In this heat I go through them like Kleenex.

Fidel walks away.

Blanche: Oh! Of all the nerve! How could he possibly think I’d continue seeing him? Blanche Devereaux has never shared a man!
Sophia: Or a pizza.
Blanche: And what does that mean, you wrinkled old crow?!
Sophia: It means Fidel is interested in more than just a cheap thrill. He also wants a mind.
Blanche: Oh, yeah? Well, we’ll see about that!
Sophia: You’re on, baby!

Blanche angrily walks away.

The next day, Dorothy and Rose are sitting on the couch. Dorothy busy grading papers, and Rose studying. Outside you could hear Sophia talking to Fidel Santiago.

Sophia: Fidel, stop!

Sophia enters the house followed by Fidel.

Sophia: Fidel, stop! Even surgical stockings only have so much elastic! Hehe! Hello, I thought you two would be asleep by now.

Sophia gestures with her eyes.

Blanche steps out of her bedroom.

Blanche: Girls, this nightgown is so sheer I believe you can see right through it. Oh, hello, Fidel.
Fidel: Hello, Blanch. How are you?
Blanche: You don’t have cataracts – you tell me.
Sophia: Beat it! You fifty-year old mattress.
Blanche: Oh. Why, youyou miserable old—
Dorothy: Blanche! Blanche, Blanche, you know the rules. When one of you is out with Fidel, the other one does not interfere.

Blanche chuckles.

Blanche: My apologies. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go take a long, hot, steamy bath, with just enough water to barely cover my perky bosoms.

Blanche seductively leans on the doorjam.

Sophia: You’re only gonna sit in an inch of water?
Blanche: Oh, that does it! That does it!

Pissed Blanche runs towards Sophia, but Rose stops her. Sophia readies to fight her, but Dorothy stops her.

Fidel: No, no, no, no, ladies! Ladies, let us behave in a more civilized manner.
Blanche: You’re right. I apologize, Fidel.
Sophia: So do I.
Fidel: Well, good night.
Blanche: Good night.
Sophia: I’ll see you at noon for lunch?
Blanche: And six for dinner.
Sophia: Ten for dancing?
Blanche: Midnight for dessert.

Fidel bids farewell, and walks out the door.

Rose: Dessert at midnight?
Sophia: There’s always room for Jell-O.

Livid Blanche slowly walks towards Sophia.

Blanche: I just hate you. I regret the day you ever moved in here.
Sophia: And I regret the day I gave birth to you.

Sophia Petrillo makes her way to her bedroom.

Dorothy: Ma! Ma, I’m your daughter.

Sophia stops.

Sophia: Oh, yeah. I need a Bromo Seltzer.
Blanche: I need a cheesecake.

Teary-eyed Blanche makes her way to the kitchen. Concerned Dorothy and Rose follows her.

Rose: Blanche, I hate to see you and Sophia fighting like that.
Blanche: She’s trying to steal my man, and no one ever
All: Steals a man from Blanche Devereaux.

Blanche places the cheesecake on the kitchen table.

Blanche: Right.
Dorothy: Blanche, this is all about your ego, isn’t it?
Blanche: Ego? Dorothy, I have no ego, and you can ask the hundreds of men who would gladly cut off their right arm to sleep with me.
Rose: I agree with Dorothy. I don’t think you’d even still be dating Fidel if another woman wasn’t interested in him.
Blanche: Girls, look, I know it seems strange, but I happen to have strong feelings for Fidel. I can’t explain it. Some things in life defy explanation.
Rose: Yeah, like Bruce Willis’ hair.

Confused Dorothy and Blanche fall silent. Sophia in her nightgown enters the kitchen.

Sophia: Blanche, I wanna talk to you.
Blanche: I’m in no mood to fight.
Sophia: Neither am I. That’s what I wanna talk about. We’ve been at each other’s throats for weeks. We’ve also been running ourselves ragged trying to outdo each other. It has to stop.
Blanche: I’m not giving Fidel up, Sophia.
Sophia: I am. I’m fighting a losing battle. You’re younger, you’re prettier, in the end he’ll choose you and it’ll break my heart. He’s yours, Blanche. No hard feelings.

Sophia turns around.

Blanche: Oh, Sophia wait.

Blanche walks towards Sophia.

Blanche: Why don’t you take Fidel? I have all those other boyfriends.
Sophia: Okay, good night!

Sophia exits the kitchen. Startled at Sophia’s antic, the girls are speechless. Seconds later

Blanche: Sophia! Sophia!

Blanche marches out of the kitchen. The next day, Dorothy steps out of the kitchen with milk and cookies.

Dorothy: Rose, I have a little surprise for you!
Rose: Cookies and milk!

Dorothy sits beside Rose who is on the couch reading a magazine.

Rose: Oh my God, what’s wrong?
Dorothy: Nothing’s wrong.

Dorothy picks up a piece of paper from the coffee table.

Rose: You only do nice things for me when something terrible has happened.
Dorothy: Rose, you failed the history test.
Rose: What does that mean?
Dorothy: It means you got more wrong than right.
Rose: I know that. I didn’t fail Math. I was talking about the bigger picture.
Dorothy: It means you won’t get your diploma.
Rose: Yeah? Well, you have a big behind.
Dorothy: Oh Rose, Rose. Please, let’s try to keep this on an adult level, and if you wanna talk behinds, they could show “How The West Was Won” on yours.
Rose: I can’t believe this.
Dorothy: I’m sorry, Rose, but I have to grade you like everybody else.

Dorothy Zbornak hands Rose Nylund the piece of paper.

Rose: Well, look, Dorothy, you made a mistake. I got that question right.
Dorothy: Rose, the question was “Who was the leader of the Third Reich?” You wrote Fritz Sticklemeyer your high school history teacher. The correct answer is Adolf Hitler.
Rose: Where’s my history book?

Rose stands up to get her history book. She shows it to Dorothy.

Rose: Is this the man we’re talking about?
Dorothy: Yes, that is Adolf Hitler.
Rose: You can call him whatever you want, but that’s Fritz Stickelmeyer. I’m as sure of that as I am that’s Eva Braun standing next to him.
Dorothy: You recognize Eva Braun?
Rose: Well, sure. She was our high school P.E. teacher. It was rumored she used to date Mr. Stickelmeyer.
Dorothy: Rose, that’s it. I—I just can’t take any more. With this question right, you have a D minus. Uh Rose, you’re a high school graduate.
Rose: Oh, boy!

Ecstatic Rose Nylund jumps for joy. Sophia Petrillo all dressed in black steps out of her room.

Rose: Sophia! Sophia, I’m a high school graduate!

Rose Nylund hugs Sophia Petrillo.

Sophia: Congratulations. Now you can get any job involving a cardboard hat. Well, how do I look?
Dorothy: Hey, terrific! Where are you going tonight?
Sophia: Fidel is taking me to the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater to see Ruth Buzzi in Evita.

Blanche Devereaux enters the living room.

Blanche: Dorothy, how do Iwhere are you going?
Sophia: To the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater with Fidel.
Blanche: But that’s impossible. He invited me yesterday after the movies.
Sophia: He invited me yesterday after dinner.
Dorothy: This was bound to happen. The two of you have run that man ragged for weeks. It’s no wonder he got confused.

The phone rings. Dorothy Zbornak answers the phone.

Dorothy: Hello?

Dorothy tries to listen to the person on the other line as Blanche continues her ranting.

Blanche: Confused? How could he possibly confuse this young, nubile body with that raisin in sneakers? Well, there’s only one way to settle this. I’m going.
Sophia: The hell you are! I’m going.
Dorothy: Neither one of you is going. Fidel isn’t coming.
Blanche: Where is he?

The next day, the girls are at Fidel Santiago’s funeral. Sophia turns to Blanche.

Sophia: We killed him.
Blanche: I know. We might as well have put a gun to poor Fidel’s head.
Sophia: We were too much woman for him. His spirit was willing, but his poor heart couldn’t take it.
Blanche: Ugh, it’s all our fault. Our silly competitiveness did this.
Dorothy: Oh, come on, you two. The man was in his seventies. These things just happen. You had nothing to do with his heart giving out.

Rose Nylund turns around to look at the other guests.

Rose: Dorothy, everyone here is a woman.

Dorothy and Sophia turn around. The priest starts speaking.

Priest: We are gathered here today to honor the memory of a man who had suddenly been taken from us.
Sophia: What are you looking at me for? Just keep talking.
Priest: Fidel Santiago was a very special man. He was kind, caring and loving. He was a man who brought joy into the lives of all he touched.

All the women sob. Dorothy turns to Rose.

Dorothy: I have the feeling he touched every behind in the room.
Priest: Fidel Santiago lived life.
Sophia: Excuse me, Father. Hold that thought.

Sophia Petrillo stands up.

Sophia: Which of you was Fidel’s girlfriend?

Everybody raises hands.

Blanche: Oh!

Blanche turns to Dorothy.

Blanche: My God, he had his burro hitched to every bedpost in town!
Rose: But that’s good news, girls. That means your cheap, animal-like lust didn’t have anything to do with killing Fidel.

One of the women stands up.

Woman: I’m leaving. I’m not about to mourn a man who’s been with every woman in this room.
Dorothy: He was never with me!
Woman: I guess even he had his standards.

The woman makes her way to the door.

Sophia: Hold it. Stay where you are. Father, if you don’t mind my saying so, I think you lost control of the room. Excuse me.

Sophia Petrillo takes the podium.

Sophia: The man in that box was a bum, a scoundrel, a cheat, and a liar.
Woman: You got that right.
Sophia: Quiet. I work alone, but there was another side to him, and it was beautiful. He awakened feelings in me I haven’t felt in thirty-five years. We used to hug and kiss, and hold hands, and it was nice. He made me feel attractive and desirable again. He probably made the rest of you feel that way too, and looking out at this kennel club, that was no small accomplishment. You may all hate Fidel right now, but I know the next time I’m sitting in the park on a warm sunny day, and I smell the aroma of a cheap cigar I’ll think of Fidel Santiago, and I’ll smile.

Sophia Petrillo steps down, and makes her way back to the front row where Rose, Dorothy, and Blanche are sitting.

Dorothy: Oh, Ma, that was very sweet.
Rose: Just lovely, Sophia.
Blanche: Sophia, can you ever forgive me for all those ugly things I said?
Sophia: Of course, it was said in the heat of battle.
Blanche: You know, if I had it all to do over again, I’d let you have Fidel.
Sophia: Oh, you’re so generous. The man’s packing material, now you’re letting me have him? I have coat racks livelier than him!

Sophia Petrillo stands up, and walks down the aisle.

Sophia: She’s giving him to me. The man’s face has more powder on it than Ann Miller’s, and she’ giving him to me. A piece of lumber would make a better dancing partner! Thanks for niente!

Sophia Petrillo steps out of the funeral parlor.

"Empathy Tests" (5, Insightful)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314818)

Hopefully, by empathy tests, they don't mean torture one rat and see how the others react.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38314868)

No, that's something only PETA would do.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315270)

PETA are the rats.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38316094)

Those rats don't have empathy, so I think this experiment must have used different ones.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314992)

There've been some milder studies vaguely like that in monkeys. In one such study [apa.org] , a monkey is given a cord that, if pulled, gives it some food. In the control group, that's all; in the experimental group, pulling the cord also shocks another monkey. They are much less willing to pull the "also shocks someone else" cord. That can be interpreted as a form of empathetic altruism, foregoing a reward to avoid harming someone else. A counter-argument is that it's not altruism so much as monkeys finding expressions of distress unpleasant, meaning they avoid pulling a cord that results in unpleasant sounds: a selfish behavior, because the real goal is to avoid hearing sounds they don't like. On the third hand, that counter-argument is hard to actually separate from "real" empathy, because one potential mechanism for (some kinds of) empathy is that we find it unpleasant to hear expressions of distress from others who are similar enough to us.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315222)

Regarding your third hand, it implies that human empathy is only an instantaneous response to something occurring at that moment (I find this stimulus to be bothering, thus I will help this other person to make the stimulus go away). To me empathy is nagging unease or sadness because I know (or can vaguely imagine) what someone else is going through, even if I don't have a direct interaction with that person at all (IE merely being told "This happened to so and so the other day"). So in that context empathy has absolutely nothing to do with selfishness, because the selfish thing to do in that case (being already removed from the person in distress) is to ignore them entirely. In fact, empathy can be downright debilitating, especially when there's nothing that can be done for the person in need.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (3, Insightful)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315266)

I think there's a glaring hole in your argument -- you're assuming that the only stimuli that can be unpleasant in this sense are immediate auditory/visual ones of someone else suffering. If you expand that to include the knowledge that suffering is taking place as a sort of stimulus, then your argument seems to no longer hold.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38316152)

I'm suggesting that empathy is higher order than condition / response, and if you include something as high level as knowledge into that definition, I'm fine with that. To me, empathy is the knowledge that someone is suffering, which is to consider, imagine, or reflect on your own past experiences to glean some understanding of what someone else is enduring. That is quite different than a response to an annoying or disturbing stimuli.

I also suggest that at least to a significant extent, empathy is a choice. In order for it to be a choice it is not a condition / response. I see a cultural pattern where people are taught (likely in an indirect way, or due to some sort of caste system) to not show (or perhaps even not feel) empathy for others. A good example of this is the horrible story of Yue Yue, a 2 year old Chinese girl that was recently run over by two vehicles and literally stepped over and around by over a dozen people for several minutes before someone helped. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLde8f2zb1U [youtube.com] (VERY disturbing video - watch at your own risk)

I've seen a strong pattern of this in other videos of trauma, car accidents, etc which leads me to believe the empathy is certainly something controllable, and likely affected by culture and society.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (3, Interesting)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315244)

I'm quite interested in the outcome of this test, at what point did the 'scientists' decide what they were doing was cruel to the animals and stop? How long did it take before any of the 'scientists' began to show some form of empathy for the monkeys?

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315878)

About the time their grant money ran out.

But let me go one further. You obviously feel aghast at the thought of creating a system which inflicts pain in a monkey. Now, this isn't dismemberment, brain damage, or anything that will cause long term damage. (Does it even cause short term damage?). These are researchers trying to learn about psychology, sociology, biology, and how to make things better. You know, "Progress". That mystical magical thing that leads to things which let you live a little longer. Speaking of living longer, what options do these monkeys have really? They could be out in the wilds of Africa, where they'd lead a life that was nasty, brutish, and short. Of course it's a little late for that now, since it's a lifestyle you kinda have to be born into. They could be placed in a zoo, where they get stared at, and slowly go crazy. They could be a pet, for all the crazy people who have exotic pet licenses. Oh, but that requires some training, which involves quite a bit of smacking, so that won't do. Or they could contribute to society in a more meaningful way by being part of a study.

So while I understand that your bleeding heart goes out to these poor monkeys, it's not that bad, and stop getting in the way of science.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38316008)

My heart is not bleeding for these animals, I understand the use of animals for say, medical testing. There is a clearly defined purpose for them, and when they are tested in this manner, it is often in the most "humane" way possible. I fail to see (either I'm just dumb, or they need to explain it better) the applications of knowing that rats feel empathy for other rats in distress. If they can't back up their reasons for doing this test, the practical applications (what lives will be saved) of deliberately inflicting pain/discomfort on these animals, then I'm inclined to consider them cruel.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315418)

we find it unpleasant to hear expressions of distress from others who are similar enough to us.

Take a hard look around. Most young people these days relish in other's pain. The more painful the more they want to see it and the more enjoyment they find. Watch America's Funniest Videos (which isn't so funny) sometime with others. The more people are harmed and/or injured the more gleefully excited many people become. As for my own observations, its seems to be especially prevalent with the entitled generation (25).

Personally I have a hard time looking at this people without utter disgust.

In the above study, I have no doubt many of the entitled generation would go out of their way to pull it, and robustly laugh as they ate their snack.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

pburghdoom (1892490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315662)

I think there is a world of difference between watching stupidity that results in harm versus physically causing it to another. I can watch (from a desensitizing distance of my own living room) some dumb ass hurt themselves and find amusement in it, but that same thing in real life not the same.

Also have you ever watched early televised slap stick comedy? I mean think of the Three Stooges, that at times was just brutal but thought the height of comedy. Take it further back to things like Punch and Judy shows, maybe puppets but that could get pretty violent as well. I think you are just looking through biased eyes.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315460)

It's pretty silly to believe that humans developed all these complex behaviors in one evolutionary step from the animals preceding them.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

rainmouse (1784278) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315520)

A counter-argument is that it's not altruism so much as monkeys finding expressions of distress unpleasant, meaning they avoid pulling a cord that results in unpleasant sounds: a selfish behavior, because the real goal is to avoid hearing sounds they don't like.

There are many forms of altruism in animals such as bats regurgitating blood for hungry cave mates or birds that give a warning cry of predators that reveals the location of the caller to said predators. However altruism is an arguable word in its definition, as typically these gestures of altruism come with increased interest from the opposite sex, a gesture of superiority so to speak which arguably is exactly the same in humans. It could also be said that true altruism does not exist, in humans or animals.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (4, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315098)

Does anybody seriously still believe that animals are just dumb, mindless beasts? I thought that way of thinking died out two centuries ago.

Instead of doing this experiment they could just ask somebody who's ever owned a pet. Or watch a few David Attenborough wildlife documentaries.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (5, Insightful)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315162)

Unfortunately yes. It's only been about half a century since there was active social debate in the US about whether people from other races were just dumb, mindless beasts.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315712)

1960? Please cite. A stray moron does not constitute an "active social debate". IoW: that's bullshit.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315962)

"about" half a century

Re:"Empathy Tests" (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315214)

The reason we know that animals are not just dumb, mindless beasts is because people have done research like this and confirmed experimentally that the presence of such emotions and other higher cognative abilities is real, and not just an anthropomorphising intepretation on the part of the observer. It's taught us a lot about where and how different behaviors arise, and led to all sorts of interesting questions. It's understood that not all animals have a "theory of mind", which is necessary to understand other creatures as having an equivalent perspective to their own. In what way does that influence their internal mental life? Are they natural solipsists? What would've happened if our branch of the evolutionary tree had never gained that ability?

Re:"Empathy Tests" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38316104)

But it would have been odd if studies had shown we were all that different from animals like monkeys and rats (not to mention apes), since we share so much in common biologically, and we can observe plenty of similar behaviors which suggest similar feelings and experiences.

It's only the religious background which held that humans were somehow special, endowed with souls and being in the image of God, which resulted in the default skeptical view. We should have started out with a view that animals are more like us than different and then used the studies to determine what those differences were, rather than the other way around.

It wasn't sound science. It was rather the cultural, religious background that modern science emerged from. And the human tendency to think we are somehow special.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315232)

Does anybody seriously still believe that animals are just dumb, mindless, and delicious beasts?

FTFY.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315594)

I remember humane rat traps decades ago included, in their instructions, mention that one rat will free another from the trap.

This information is not new.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (2)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315838)

You've got this backwards. The point is that humans are basically just like other mammals, with very slight differences that are due to having relatively enormous brains.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315290)

If you'd read the articles instead of just shoot from the hip, you'd know.

Yes, they torture one rat, if you define "trap the rat in a small clear tube long enough that they might pee from the mental stresses of discovering they're trapped" as torture.

You can't study empathy without pain or anguish being involved, by definition. You might be able to study this concept by watching it in nature, but the conditions won't be controlled so conclusions will be weak.

Re:"Empathy Tests=Torture" (2)

hoboroadie (1726896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315728)

If you'd read the articles instead of just shoot from the hip, you'd know.

Yes, they torture one rat, if you define "trap the rat in a small clear tube long enough that they might pee from the mental stresses of discovering they're trapped" as torture.

If you'd read the other article, (Sorry, I couldn't read past the part where they mentioned painful chemical injections.) then you might, indeed, define this as torture. Or not. As I said, I didn't actually complete that.

Re:"Empathy Tests" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315376)

There are many people who don't think rat can feel emotion or pain.

If it means hurting *one* or even 10 rats, so that people's attitudes can change, and thus prevent thousands or even millions of rats from going through tests on future occasions, that can only be a good thing.

Military applications... (2)

Shark (78448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315544)

I can see how the military would be quite interested in this. If this helps them develop a drug that turns off empathy, they'll finally have soldiers that are willing to shoot on their own population when the shit really hits the fan.

Really Misleading Headline (3, Funny)

dmmiller2k (414630) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314838)

I thought this was going to be another article about investment bankers and the financial meltdown.

Just saying. John Corzine has been in the news recently.

Re:Really Misleading Headline (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314898)

Now you're just being insulting.

To rats, of course.

Not surprised (3, Informative)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

Re:Not surprised (-1, Troll)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315112)

Yep. Did they seriously need to do an experiment to figure this out? Just ask a pet owner...

Re:Not surprised (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315164)

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

Re:Not surprised (2)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315774)

This is sociology we're talking about. No scientific proofs available. Only bias confirmations.

The only evidence available from this experiment is that indeed, animals will help each other. The motivations remain unknown.

Any time you try to guess as to "why" an animal did something, it's not science.

Re:Not surprised (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315242)

As a cyberneticist, I can tell you that not all humans take rats for granted... [youtube.com]

After all: Brain cells are brain cells; Neural networks are neural networks; Intelligence is intelligence; Humans aren't really that special, even if you think they are, they won't be for long. [youtube.com]

We've only really scratched the surface in our experimenting with Machine Intelligence interfacing with, and even enhancing Organic Intelligence, or vise versa. Not only this, but a mind machine interface creates the possibility for multi-mind beings -- One rat may have less intelligence than a human... but what about a million rat-mind collective?

This type of research is important, especially using non-human minds because through it we may find whether sympathy is an inherent trait in all life, including that of machine intelligences, hybrid organic intelligences, and even advanced alien intelligences.

I hope we do discover empathy and kindness to be universal truths. Talk about social awareness...

Re:Not surprised (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315286)

Amen. Not just towards cage mates, but to me as well. I had one in particular that seemed very empathetic when I was upset. I took them out at the same time every day and when I was having a bad day she would come over and crawl up my shirt, hop on my shoulder, and lay against my neck until free time was over. She 'loved' me in a way that most people attribute to higher mammals.

Anecdote: One particularly awful day I let them out and she did what she always does. Later in the evening, she actually escaped the cage (I had to put something over the door to keep her from getting out after that!) while I was laying on the couch. I didn't notice until she hopped onto my chest from the top of the couch. She snuggled there for quite a while before finally becoming restless and I took her back to her cage.

She lived to be over 6 years old (for rat owners, you know how short their lives are). I miss her very much. She was one of my first, and I've owned many since then. However, none have come close to her in personality!

Re:Socrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315782)

Is that you, Willard?

interesting study, but not completely new (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 [umd.edu] an interesting review from 2008.

Re:interesting study, but not completely new (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315094)

The new study distinguishes emotional contagion - literally feeling the pain of others, as this headline puts it - from empathy, which is defined as providing a supportive response to another's pain without exhibiting that same emotion. The former is well known in nonhuman animals, the latter not so much.

obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38314902)

Mice caught in glue traps will try to work themselves free, then wail like the dickens if/when they can't. They're pretty smart critters, so they must be trying to get help (from their peers, not two-leggers).

In other news... (1)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314908)

When the same tests were conducted with Lawyers and Politicians...

The Lawyers and Politicians left their fellow people in the cages and ate the treats in front of them.

The Rats proved to be more compassionate and empathic.

Re:In other news... (2)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315064)

Good job rats! Cave Johnson...we're done here.

Try replacing rats wit lawyers for experimentation (1)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315122)

1. Lab assistants become attached to the rats. This interferes with research, no such attachment forms with a lawyer.

2. Lawyers breed faster and are in much greater supply.

3. Lawyers are much cheaper to care for and humanitarian groups don't harass you no matter what you're doing to them.

4. There are some things even a rat won't do.

Re:Try replacing rats wit lawyers for experimentat (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315196)

Lawyers are much cheaper to care for

On which planet? Never seen a $300/hour lawyer's bill?

Re:Try replacing rats wit lawyers for experimentat (1)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315374)

I suppose that's one way to get more grant money. (using lawyers as text animals)

So what you are saying is.... (0)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315690)

Humans don't give a rat's ass, but rats do.

Unnecessarily complicated experiment (2, Informative)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314940)

Could have just given the rats the Voight-Kampff test.

Re:Unnecessarily complicated experiment (5, Funny)

Guppy (12314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315030)

Could have just given the rats the Voight-Kampff test.

Yeah, they tried, but it didn't go too well.

Researcher: "You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, . You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, but you’re not helping. Why is that?
Rat: "Squeak?"

Researcher: Describe in single words, only the good things that come into your mind about your mother.
Rat: "Squeeeeeeak!" *BITE*

Re:Unnecessarily complicated experiment (0)

esocid (946821) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315156)

I, for one, welcome our new rat android overlords.

Rat's ass (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38314946)

This gives a whole new meaning to "giving a rat's ass".

Aww, so disappointing... (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314952)

From the title, I thought it was some research about rats literally feeling each other's pain.

Think about it, a method to make an attacker feel the victim's pain would pretty much guarantee a Nobel Peace Prize to its inventor, effectively putting an end to warfare as we know it.

Re:Aww, so disappointing... (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315282)

You mean PTSD? Aren't we desperately trying to find cures for that so we can go back to killing each other?

Re:Aww, so disappointing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315672)

PTSD is of course not immediate, and it doesn't happen to everyone. Human nature being what it is, everyone thinks they are "immune". Therefore, PTSD is not a deterrent. By the time they contract the disease, the damage (to the "enemy") has already been done.

Indeed (1)

AdamJS (2466928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38314958)

The RIAA is certainly sympathetic to the plight of the MPAA

Idiot scientists with an anti-human agenda. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38314988)

How many times do we see these "studies", only too look into it and see that these IMBECILE scientists are equating correlation with causation and are anthromopormophising *constantly*, interpreting the rats actions as if they had uniquely human intentions. Also, just look at their sample size, that is way too small to actually understand what is happening in all the rats. Another worthless animal-rights-nazi inspired science article, thats all this is.

Re:Idiot scientists with an anti-human agenda. (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315152)

How many times do we see these comments, only to look into and see that these IMBECILE commenters haven't read the article and wouldn't know good science if it bit them in the ass?

Re:Idiot scientists with an anti-human agenda. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315190)

How many times do we see these "studies", only too look into it and see that these IMBECILE scientists are equating correlation with causation and are anthromopormophising *constantly*, interpreting the rats actions as if they had uniquely human intentions. Also, just look at their sample size, that is way too small to actually understand what is happening in all the rats. Another worthless animal-rights-nazi inspired science article, thats all this is.

While we are riding the fallacy train, would it be worth pointing out that the phrase "interpreting rats actions as if they had uniquely human intentions." begs the question(in the original sense of the term) so damned hard that the question has filed for a restraining order and moved to a different state? By definition, only humans possess uniquely human intentions. All intentions possessed by at least one nonehuman, or not possessed by any humans, are not uniquely human. Therefore, a non human cannot have a uniquely human intention...

It is certainly possible that the study is flawed in terms of sample size or statistical power, and I would quibble that you would really need to observe rats enduring a personal cost of some kind to assist a conspecific in order to suggest that they feel empathy, rather than mere cooperation(giving somebody something you have no use for doesn't require empathy. Giving up something you want in order to alleviate somebody else's distress arguably does). However, if you are just going to declare empathy a "uniquely human intention", what's the point? Nonhumans couldn't possibly have it; but they could exhibit a behavioral structure that is game-theoretically identical to empathy in operation, which would still be an interesting result...

Re:Idiot scientists with an anti-human agenda. (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315240)

Nonhumans couldn't possibly have it; but they could exhibit a behavioral structure that is game-theoretically identical to empathy in operation, which would still be an interesting result...

Behavioralism, which is the paradigm under which this study has been performed, would seem to argue that a behavior identical to an emotional response is that emotional response.

Re:Idiot scientists with an anti-human agenda. (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315514)

Are you secretly William Lane Craig?

Rat feelings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315020)

This is great news. I'm going to start torturing every rat I find from now on.

wuzzy line (1)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315038)

"There isn't a sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom -- it's a very wuzzy line -- and it's getting wuzzy-er all the time" -Jane Goodall

rats have empathy? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:rats have empathy? (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315836)

There's worse. When you place a dwarf hamster in a cage with other dwarf hamsters, they immediately perform a blood test on the newcomer. Any reaction at all, they torch it.

Re:rats have empathy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38316076)

As with the post at the top, it's unclear if you're talking about rats or presidential candidates.

Cannibalism (3, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315066)

Rats engage in cannibalism. Perhaps rats seek out other rats in distress for this reason.

Re:Cannibalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315752)

Humans also engage in cannibalism. Perhaps humans seek out other humans in distress for this reason. It would really help explain those damn Thanksgiving dinners.

Link and Very mis-leading title (1)

Azarman (1730212) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315074)

Read this on the train this morning

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21256-rats-free-each-other-from-traps-then-share-chocolate.html [newscientist.com]

They worked out that in 76% of cases (after training) the rats would free each other from cages.

In another test they were given the choice between chocolate or freeing a mate, and in one or two cases they freed it and shared the the cholocates.

they also did another test where the caged rat could not get any chocolate (even if free), and the first rat still let them out. This is meant to show that they were not just letting the other rat out to social company/rewards.

Point being it is interesting to watch animals show behavoir traits that we have said only humans/apes can feel. Anyway read the paper, my summary wont be great i was really sleepy on the train this morning

Me

Hmmm... (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315088)

This just in, rats morally superior to alarming percentage of humans...

And prawns/plants (0)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315108)

Reminds me of some tests done back in the 70's when they stuck a lie detector type thing on a plant then dropped live prawns into boiling water nearby, Every time a prawn died, the plant showed a response. It was documented in Lyal Watson's Supernature book so take that as you will.

Re:And prawns/plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315658)

Reminds me of the time they tried a variant of that on Myhtbusters. The tests appeared to show that the polygraph machine was picking up interference from the nearby humans even though it was attached to the plant.

Known for a long time (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315116)

Kin Selection [wikipedia.org]

So That Makes Bill Clinton A ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315154)

Rat?

Published in Rat Lab Quarterly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315180)

Studies show that humans lack the empathy trait. Subjects routinely placed researchers into painful and stressful situations. Even when shown by other researchers how to help those in need, subjects continued to let the researchers suffer.

Wrong! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315276)

The results mean that these rodents can be used to help determine the genetic and physiological underpinnings of empathy in people.

No, it just means rats are religious. Only religion gives us empathy and morality, right?

apologies for comparing politicans to rats... (1)

doug141 (863552) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315348)

unfair to the rats, and they deserve better.

N.Y.M.H.? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315434)

Empathetic rats and no one mentions The Secret of NYMH?

Re:N.Y.M.H.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38316004)

"And then one day, I looked opon the words on the cage door.... And understood them..."

Motivation is a complicated emotion (4, Insightful)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315466)

Behavioral experiments like this are relatively straightforward to plan and run. The hard part is to explain the result, and the reasons are not always what you'd expect on first glance, often due to confounding variables that you've inadvertently changed.

It's also worth noting that the news release throws in a quote about altruism, but the original paper's authors were careful not to go there.

For example, reading this carefully [sciencemag.org] , it's clear that the rat frees its cagemate and then goes for the chocolate. It's not a binary choice between the two. Why does it do that? Perhaps it's hidden empathy/altruism circuitry. Or maybe the rat's just afraid of what its cagemate will do if it eats all the food and then the trapped rat gets out. Contrary to what most people think, domesticated rats are very much like domesticated dogs in terms of temperament... very social animals, usually with a playful temperament, but can also be very territorial and assertive. And territorial fighting usually occurs over shared, limited resources, like food. (I will say, chocolate is a good choice. Rats love chocolate. Some of our rats will eat 30 - 40 M&Ms in a half-hour experiment. Not bad for an animal weighing 300 grams.)

Maybe it is altruism or empathy. But true altruism is doing something good and expecting nothing in return, not a pain avoidance strategy.

Re:Motivation is a complicated emotion (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315862)

maybe the rat's just afraid of what its cagemate will do if it eats all the food and then the trapped rat gets out.

That, in itself, would be an interesting result as it would require that the rat anticipate the other rat's reaction without prior experience of the situation. That's not believed to be a common ability in animals.

Empathy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315510)

Finally I can prove not all people have it.

ironic much? (1)

someonestolecc (1038714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315542)

Wait. Did anyone else pick up the irony? Empathy lets us feel another persons pain. We just "discovered" that rats have the ability to it.. - Great news! We can be cruel to rats in order to learn more about our empathy? There are two immediate possibilites that pop into mind from there: that the planned research to generalise over to us is intended to help us disable or manipulate empathy ... and or that in other news, human to animal empathy is showing to be lacking. i liked the post saying to speak to any pet owner or look at any wildlife doco...

Disappointing heading (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315564)

I was thinking "OOooh, rodent telepathy, that's awesome".

Oh, never mind. More like "Rats have empathy"

Rats entanglement? (1)

lolococo (574827) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315630)

Man, I was, like, so hoping it was another application of quantum physics.

Re:Rats entanglement? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315776)

I'm not sure I like where that leads.

Good news, everyone! I've invented quantum entanglement faster-than-light communications! Unfortunately, to make it work, we'll have to torture one of you in Morse code patterns of pain and decode the sympathetic response at the other end.

Who wants to be my first transmitter helper?

Re:Rats entanglement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38316022)

what no Professor Farnsworth voice?

No surprise at all. (2)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315636)

Anyone who has rats can tell you that they're a whole lot more intelligent and advanced than the stereotype of rats would indicate.

But in more scientific terms, looking at other mammals, we find that... surprise, surprise... their brains are a lot like ours, and they have very similar capabilities, including emotions and feelings, as ours. They do not have them to the same extent as ours, but they do have them. Those are backed up by psychological observations, by anatomical/structural investigations, and by brain scans.

You fail it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315700)

nearly twO years the accounting blue, rubber United States of Ass untilO I hit my

Ask people, not mice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38315828)

Wouldn't it be easier just to ask people why they are empathetic? Thinking I'd get a lot more out of interviewing 100 empathetic people why they feel that way as opposed to trapping a mouse in a maze, given that my goal was to figure out why humans are empathetic. Just sayin'.

Awesome BookTV interview on rats (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38315944)

Years ago I watched a crazy book signing on CSPAN by a layman who basically just sat and watched NYC rats and talked about their behavior. The great thing about it was his frantic "WTF has this guy been snorting?" enthusiasm about rats mixed with pretty insightful observations from a guy spending his nights sitting in trash-filled alley. If you ever catch it on one Saturday afternoon, give it a chance.

My favorite observation was his comments on societal memory. Even after major infrastructural or architectural changes to the city, rats still seemed to follow paths dictated by long-gone geographical features like rivers and hills. He also noted that humans do the same as well! When a prominent street corner building was razed and turned into a paved expanse, pedestrians would still circumnavigate the outline of the building.

This is why we use rats rather than lawyers. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#38316206)

We found that using lawyers or bankers gave results that didn't match the human population.

Rats however gave comparable results.

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