Rats Return Kindness with (measured) Kindness

26 Feb

The kindness of rats

Science Abstracts

Rats qualify the level of help they receive and when returning that help adjust their efforts depending on the quality of help they received.

Norway rats reciprocate help according to the quality of help they received

Direct reciprocity, according to the decision rule ‘help someone who has helped you before’, reflects cooperation based on the principle of postponed benefits. A predominant factor influencing Homo sapiens’ motivation to reciprocate is an individ­ual’s perceived benefit resulting from the value of received help. But hitherto it has been unclear whether other species also base their decision to cooperate on the quality of received help. Previous experiments have demonstrated that Norway rats, Rattus norvegicus, cooperate using direct reciprocity decision rules in a variant of the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma, where they preferentially help cooperators instead of defectors. But, as the quality of obtained benefits has not been varied, it is yet unclear whether rats…

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