Rats Show Empathy
YouTube is chock-full of popular videos of monkeys working together to share food, of elephants acting empathically toward their peers. For some reason, people love stories of empathy in animals. (Maybe such scenes trigger an oxytocin release in our own brains…) Well, now there’s a new (and unlikely) animal joining the list of empathetic creatures: the rat. The much maligned and oft-experimented-on rodent is getting a lot of press this week thanks to a widely circulated study in the journal Science. Experiments showed that rats consistently exhibited “empathically motivated pro-social behavior” by liberating encaged lab-mates even when there was no apparent incentive to do so. About half the time, they even chose to rescue fellow rats before rescuing encaged chocolate. This New York Times was among dozens of outlets to cover the story.