Calling someone a “rat” doesn’t have the same meaning after a new study published in the journal “Current Biology.” The study explores how empathetic rats can be, revealing that domestic rats will avoid harming other rats if they can.
The rodents were put to the test by being trained to pull levers for treats. But if the lever shocked their neighboring rat, several rats would stop pulling that lever and switch to another one. That’s called “harm aversion,” and it’s something that rat brains share with those of humans.
Co-author Christian Keysers of the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience says the likeness is “super-exciting for two reasons.” For one, it suggests that mammals have evolved to prevent harm to others . . . and secondly, the rats’ harm aversion behavior can help scientists learn more about the psychology of sociopaths and psychopaths.