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Helping a Cagemate in Need

Whereas human pro-social behavior is often driven by empathic concern for another, it is unclear whether nonprimate mammals experience a similar motivational state. To test for empathically motivated pro-social behavior in rodents, we placed a free rat in an arena with a cagemate trapped in a restrainer. After several sessions, the free rat learned to intentionally and quickly open the restrainer and free the cagemate. Rats did not open empty or object-containing restrainers. They freed cagemates even when social contact was prevented. When liberating a cagemate was pitted against chocolate contained within a second restrainer, rats opened both restrainers and typically shared the chocolate. Thus, rats behave pro-socially in response to a conspecific’s distress, providing strong evidence for biological roots of empathically motivated helping behavior.

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Classifications


Resource Type: Video, Report, Journal article/Issue
Audience Level: High school upper division 11-12, Undergraduate lower division 13-14, Undergraduate upper division 15-16, Graduate, General public & informal education

Author and Copyright


Authors and Editors: Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal of Psychology, University of Chicago, Jean Decety of Psychology, Chicago, Peggy Mason of Neurobiology, University of Chicago
Publisher: SCIENCE
Format: text/html
Copyright and other restrictions: Yes
Cost: No

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American Association for the Advancement of Science


     
   

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