You are either not logged in or not registered with our community. Click here to register.
 
December 05, 2016, 06:59:14 PM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length

Click here if you are having problems.
Default Wide Screen Beige Lilac Rainbow Black & Blue October Send us your theme!

Hark!  The Herald!
Holiday Issue 2016

Wiki Blogs Dicebot

Author Topic: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!  (Read 1193 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

  • Faerie Queen; Her Imperial Lubemajesty; Willing Victim
  • Dame
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Apr 2005
  • Location: In the middle of Happily Ever After with a dark Prince Charming.
  • Gender: Female
  • I am many things - dull is not one of them.
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 4
This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« on: December 08, 2011, 05:52:47 PM »
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2071722/Rats-wrongly-maligned-actually-kind-hearted-generous-creatures.html

I really, really enjoyed this article, except for the shocked tone it displayed. I could have told you from less than a year of owning rats that they are empathetic creatures, durnit. They are social animals, highly intelligent, and they are noticeably happy when the colony grows. I know from my rescue that male rats can act as 'uncle' figures to abandoned litters, and that nursing mothers will take on raising abandoned litters without too much coaxing. As someone who was indifferent toward them (I mean, they're cute and fuzzy but so are most other animals) when we acquired our first trio, I was astonished at how smart they are, and how friendly. I honestly thought of them as pointy-faced hamsters before. I'm just surprised that, with all the experimentation that has already gone on with lab rats, science didn't figure this out sooner.

Offline ofDelusions

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2011, 06:05:40 PM »
I don't remember the last time science article made me go "Awww" out loud.

This article did.

Offline Oniya

  • StoreHouse of Useless Trivia
  • Oracle
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Sep 2008
  • Location: Just bouncing through. Hi! City of Roses, Pennsylvania
  • Gender: Female
  • One bad Motokifuka. Also cute and FLUFFY!
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 3
Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2011, 07:10:45 PM »
You mean they hadn't watched this yet?

Ratatouille | Your Friend the Rat | 1/3

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2011, 12:40:12 AM »
Quote
Peggy Mason said: 'That was very compelling. It said to us that essentially helping their cage-mate is on par with chocolate. We were shocked.'

I quite like that line. I can just imagine the incredulous awe-inspired tone as she said the word chocolate. Of course then Dr. Mason goes on to that painful 'biological inheritance' bit...maybe I should think better of applying to get a Harvard PhD.

On a sidenote: While this might be true of rats, these qualities are sooo not present in mice. Mice will struggle to hide under one another and frequently use each other as shields against perceived threats. This is even true of mothers with their own pups (after like the first week).

Offline Shjade

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2011, 12:59:05 AM »
I'm inclined to think this is less empathy-driven and more survival-driven. The choice is eating chocolate or freeing another rat. If you eat the chocolate, yes, you get a delicious meal now. If you free the other rat you have an ally to help you get more food to eat later, at least in theory. Colony thinking. It's still a self-interest motivation, ultimately, but it is one that requires some intelligence to reason out future events rather than being stuck in the present.

Certainly interesting in any case.

Sidenote, I love that Oni's video link ends where it does.

"Wait wait wait, the Norway rat came from China?"

"Yes." *END VIDEO, NO EXPLANATION FOR YOU*

Lulz timing.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2011, 01:03:38 AM by Shjade »

Offline Jude

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2011, 05:36:55 AM »
This kind of behavior is not necessarily motivated by intelligence or advanced reasoning, in fact I doubt that.  Prediction of future events based on current circumstances with sure forethought is most likely beyond the cognitive capabilities of rats.  Remember that if a certain behavior is adaptive, there's a basis for it becoming widespread (rats who possess it will reproduce, thrive, and survive with greater efficacy).

As for the article in question, the research is preliminary and flawed.  It took me a bit to find the actual abstract for the publication, but they reach conclusions which make no sense eventually, and it's not well-controlled with few sample sizes.  I'm not even convinced that what they're observing is particularly selfless, it sounds like the rats were largely acting to fulfill a need for stimulation, not empathy.

At one point they conclude that can't be the case because "these rats free their partners even when they're not allowed to interact with them after doing so" but:

1)  How can they be sure the rat didn't know that they wouldn't be able to interact with them after the fact?
2)  How well did they control for classical conditioning?

If the rat generally receives a reward for doing something (aka if for the first 10 trials they got to hang out with their rat buddy after freeing them), they will want to free them even if there's no rational way in which doing so wil allow them to hang out with their rat buddy afterwards.

It's a really poorly done sloppy bit of research.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

  • Faerie Queen; Her Imperial Lubemajesty; Willing Victim
  • Dame
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Apr 2005
  • Location: In the middle of Happily Ever After with a dark Prince Charming.
  • Gender: Female
  • I am many things - dull is not one of them.
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 4
Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2011, 07:14:56 AM »
Actually, relying solely on an abstract is shoddy research. As anyone who has written an article for a journal (or even someone who's had to sift through approximately a metric crapton of them for research papers) can tell you, the space for abstracts is extremely limited. Because this limitation necessitates an abbreviation of the research within, the authors tend to speak in very, very general terms about the paper. This leads to most abstracts being (unintentionally, I like to think) a little misleading about the scope and breadth of the paper itself. The questions you ask, both 1 and 2, would be answered in the methodology section of the paper. If you're looking to pronounce it as shoddy, at least do so on the basis of the primary source rather than multiple secondary sources.

And, given that they've claimed that their research shows that prediction of future events based on current circumstances isn't beyond the cognitive capabilities of rats, you're probably going to need some sort of source to refute it, preferably one based on the research of other behavioral scientists well-versed in the normal capabilities of rats. Your post makes it clear that you are not one, so without proper sourcing and research it's pretty difficult to take your assertions at all seriously.

Offline Mithlomwen

  • ~ E's resident kilt inspector ~ ~ Atropos ~
  • Goddess
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2008
  • Location: Somewhere between the dark and the light...
  • Gender: Female
  • ~ Thunder only happens when it's raining.... ~
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2011, 07:34:59 AM »
Rats are awesome.  ;D



/hijack

Offline Jude

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2011, 09:19:07 AM »
You're absolutely correct, my statement was definitely overreaching -- sorry about that, I didn't mean to mislead anyone.  Reading news accounts and the abstract of a story is not enough to determine whether it's valid or not.  And the result of one experiment isn't enough to determine if the ideas are valid or invalid either.

If anyone wants to read something more in depth that has lots of discussion with the scientists who conducted the experiment (and they mention the limitations of it that stop it from being in any way conclusive including a big problem with the empathy conclusion in the form of an uncontrolled variable), I'd encourage them to read this:  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/rat-empathy/all/1

It does a much better job of covering the situation even-handedly than my commentary or the daily mail article (daily mail has a terrible science journalism reputation btw).

I'd seriously caution people against drawing positive or negative conclusions about the truthfulness of an idea from preliminary research however.  There is a troubling tendency of the public to see a news report about 1 researcher's efforts and take it as gospel because it's in line with what they want to believe.  That's how the math and music myth got started, for example.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2011, 09:27:35 AM by Jude »

Offline Mithlomwen

  • ~ E's resident kilt inspector ~ ~ Atropos ~
  • Goddess
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2008
  • Location: Somewhere between the dark and the light...
  • Gender: Female
  • ~ Thunder only happens when it's raining.... ~
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2011, 10:58:06 AM »
I can't speak for Trieste, but I don't really think that the article was posted in order to debate the research itself, nor the ways in which the conclusions were drawn.  I took it as more a celebration of just how awesome rats are, not a call to discuss/debate the science behind the article itself. 
« Last Edit: December 19, 2011, 10:59:22 AM by Mithlomwen »

Offline Shjade

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2011, 08:30:54 PM »
I took it as more a celebration of just how awesome rats are, not a call to discuss/debate the science behind the article itself.
...in the Elliquiy U section? I thought debating the science of things was always expected here. >.>

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: This Just In: Science Discovers that Rats are Awesome!
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2011, 12:49:53 PM »
I want to make a Pinky+The Brain joke, but I can't think of any good ones, so I'll just link to the theme song instead.

Rats are, indeed, awesome.

Pinky and The Brain Intro