The Rat Challenge this Holiday Season?

Abundance Contribution Empathy


Key Point: rats are proven to demonstrate conscious empathy. They work to help each other get out of situations where they’re trapped. It is the “rat like” thing to do. Why can’t we humans more consciously help each other out of situations where we’re trapped? Let’s choose helping each other versus seeking self gratification. After all even rats resist eating that chocolate chip cookie before helping out a fellow rat.

I read about this very interesting study in The Big Think blog. My reaction was, “Wow, if rats’ natural action is to behave this way certainly we as people are capable of more with each other.”

“Now this paper, out in last week’s Science, will make them seem even more human: it turns out that rats will take the trouble to free a trapped fellow-rat for no physical reward (though there may be a warm, fuzzy feeling). In fact, even when there was a reward (delicious chocolates for the taking, next to the trapped victim) rats in these experiments often freed their fellow-rodent and shared the food, when they could have kept it to themselves.

Rodents have been shown to feel “emotional contagion” (which humans demonstrate when, for example, they screw up their faces in a pained expression while watching someone else get hurt). But the paper, by Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety, and Peggy Mason is the first to demonstrate that the animals will take action to help others in distress. As Mason points out in this video, that’s a pretty big achievement, because it requires that the Helper Rat overcome the fear it feels emanating from the Victim Rat.”

Character Move:

  1. Recognize when someone including ourselves is trapped in a situation, we need to ask for and/or give help. We cannot accept being trapped as a given.
  2. Take the “rat road;” be persistent until freedom from a trapped situation arrives. Stay away from that narcissistic “cookie;” it will only distract us. The reward comes from helping and getting out of that trap whatever it may be.
  3. If we are “helper” rats we have to overcome the fear we feel emanating from the rat needing help. Just help. Just do it. Celebrate the freedom.

I recognize that this rat metaphor is taking license by applying the learning of this experiment to people. But if rats have this ethic… well, it just makes me pause and wonder (hope you do to).

Solid “rat moves” in The Triangle,