Tag: empathy (page 1 of 3)

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Rats try to rescue others in distress, suggesting they feel empathy


Rats were even more likely to choose helping over getting a treat

Excerpt from cbc.ca

Calling someone a rat isn't a compliment about their character – but a new study suggests that maybe it should be.

Rats that see another rat struggling in a pool of water will open a door to rescue it, even if they could open a different door to get a chocolate treat instead.

Rats that knew what it was like to be wet and struggling in the pool were even quicker to help.
"Our findings suggest that rats can behave prosocially and that helper rats may be motivated by empathy-like feelings towards their distressed cage mate," Nobuya Sato, lead author of a study, said in a statement.

The study was published this week in the journal Animal Cognition.

Sato and his team at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan designed experiments involving pairs of rat cage mates, either two males or two females.


'Helper rats may be motivated by empathy-like feelings,' suggests Nobuya Sato, a Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan research and lead author of a study released this week. (Andre Penner/Associated Press)


The two were placed in separate compartments separated by a transparent wall and door – one compartment that was dry and empty, and one filled with a deep pool of water and sheer walls that made it impossible to climb out. The door could be opened by the rat on the dry side, allowing the other rat to climb out of the pool.

Motivated by helping

Rats on the dry side of the cage were quick to open the door if they saw their cage mates struggling in the water, but not if the pool was empty or contained a stuffed toy rat. If no water was in either compartment, they also didn't open the door. That suggested that they were motivated by helping and not just opening the door for fun.

The researchers reversed the roles and found that rats were quicker to learn to open the door and rescue their cage mate if they had previously experienced a similar struggle in the pool.
"This modulation of learning by prior experience suggests that the helping behaviour observed in the present study might be based on empathy," they wrote.

In another experiment, rats in the dry compartment could choose between two different doors.
  • One that allowed them to rescue their cage mate from the pool.
  • Another that provided access to a chocolate cereal treat. 
More than half the time, rats chose to rescue the other rat first – especially if they were trained to open the door in a similar rescue scenario rather than being trained to open the door in order to access a food treat.

"These results suggest that for all rats, helping a distressed cage mate has a higher value than obtaining a food reward," the researchers wrote.

The results are similar to those in a previous experiment by different researchers, in which rats rescued other rats trapped in an acrylic tube. Still, there has some debate about whether this type of helping behaviour exists among animals other than primates such as monkeys and humans.

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13 Things Anyone Who Loves A Highly Sensitive Person Should Know

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com When I was in kindergarten, a boy in my class tossed my favorite book over our elementary school fence. I remember crying profusely, not because I was sad to see it go, but because I was so furious that he was s...

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Jane Goodall Says SeaWorld ‘Should Be Closed Down’

Jane Goodall


Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com

NEW YORK -- Jane Goodall wants to see SeaWorld go extinct.
The 81-year-old primatologist said whales and dolphins should never be held in captivity, and that the entertainment company known for its orca shows should be shuttered.

“They definitely should be closed down,” Goodall said in an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this month. 

She’s not alone. SeaWorld’s stock price has been plummeting since July 2013, when CNN released the documentary “Blackfish." The film exposed the misery endured by SeaWorld's trained orca and the dangers posed to trainers working with stressed-out carnivorous whales. 

seaworld stock
SeaWorld's stock price has declined precipitously since the 2013 release of "Blackfish."

One of the problems highlighted in "Blackfish" is that cetacea, the family of aquatic mammals that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises, communicate with sonar-like sound waves. When confined to tanks, Goodall noted, those waves echo back and create a hellish cacophony for the animals.

“When they are contained in these tanks … that is acoustical hell,” said Goodall, adding that her nonprofit organization, the Jane Goodall Institute, is urging aquariums across the country to free their whales. “The sounds bounce back from the walls of the tank.”

SeaWorld aggressively refuted many of the film's claims, including allegations that its whales were unhealthy and that the company tried to cover up details surrounding the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was mauled by an orca. 

After the release of "Blackfish," SeaWorld saw a rapid decline in visitors, and with that, in the price of shares. But on Monday, Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock, optimistic that the company can retool its image as consumers start forgetting about the blockbuster documentary.

"Jane Goodall is a respected scientist and advocate for the world’s primates, but we couldn’t disagree more with her on this," Becca Bides, a SeaWorld spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. 

"Zoos and marine mammal parks like SeaWorld allow people to experience animals in a way that is inspiring and educational."
Asked about the allegation that SeaWorld's tanks are detrimental to whales, Bides denied the claim, arguing that they are specially crafted to keep underwater noise levels quieter than the ambient ocean.

As of last December, SeaWorld held 22 orcas in its three U.S. marine parks, five of which were caught in the wild, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Whale and Dolphin Conservation. A total of 57 orcas are held in captivity around the world, the group notes. At least 160 orcas have died in captivity since 1961, and an additional 30 pregnant whales have miscarried or had stillborn calves.

Goodall said she remains hopeful that humans are gaining a greater sense of empathy for animals and losing interest in watching them perform for entertainment.

“It’s not only that they’re really big, highly intelligent and social animals so that the capture and confinement in itself is cruel,” she said of the captive orcas, but also that “they have emotions like ours.”
She welcomed the decision by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to eliminate elephants in its shows by 2018.

“If you see what happens to those baby elephants, the way they’re trained, it’s absolutely chilling,” said Goodall, who had a pendant in the shape of Africa hanging from her necklace. “They lose all of their young elephant playfulness, and then they can be trained.”

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The Secret To A Meaningful Life In Just 7 ‘Magic’ Words

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com Sometimes, it's the most fantastical, fictional characters that do the best job of teaching us about reality.New York Times bestselling author T.A. Barron spent decades creating the magical image of Merlin the wiza...

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