Area of Study
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Previous research has searched for empathy in rats (Rattus norvegicus) by placing a trapped rat inside a restricting tube, and giving a donor rat the opportunity to free it (Ben-Ami Bartal et al., 2011; Silberberg et al., 2014). It is unclear if freeing behavior is due to empathetic responses by donors, or if it is motivated by desire for social contact, or some other factor. The current study utilized a novel method to measure empathy in rats. Donors had the opportunity to free trapped rats from a restricting tube into an adjacent chamber. Half the donor rats spent time in the restricting tube, giving them a shared stressful experience with trapped rats. It was hypothesized that donors who had been in the tube would free trapped rats at higher rates. Due to unintended aversive properties of the apparatus no differences were found in freeing rates between donors who had been in the tube, and had not.
Richmond, Dylan, "Assessing Empathy in Rats: The Role of Shared Experience" (2014). Summer Research. 226.
University of Puget Sound