Empathy in Rats – Animal Cognition

As the go-to animal for biological and behavioral research, rats have long been the darlings of science. But only in recent years has their capacity for empathy started to get more attention.

That’s not to say that research into rat empathy hasn’t been done in the past. In 1962, scientists George E. Rice and Priscilla Gainer presented individual rats with a squeaking rat suspended in a harness. For the control condition, they presented the rats with a Styrofoam block in another harness. The experimenter rat could respond by pressing a bar that would lower either the distressed rat or the block. The distressed rat was freed more often than the block.

To learn more about some of the empathy research covered in this article, watch the video below.