Just Like Humans, Rats Are Bestowed With Power To Imagine!
What sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our prodigious ability to reason. But is it truly a human-unique feature or even our nonhuman relatives bless with this? Well, a new study on rational behavior in rats reveals that rats have the ability to link cause and effect such that they can expect, or imagine, something happening even if it isn’t.
This study paves way in order to understand human reasoning, especially in older adults, as ageing degrades the ability to maintain information about unobserved events, the researchers said.
Lead researcher Aaron Blaisdell of the University of California, Los Angeles, along with her other colleagues, stated that the recent study draws from long-understood ideas that when a rat (or dog or pigeon) observes one event followed by another, such as a tone followed by food, it forms an association between the events. And once the association is formed, whenever the rat hears the tone, it expects food to follow. The researchers added that the rat appears to believe that the tone causes the food.
Blaisdell also stated, “What I have shown in my research is that rats not only acquire these types of associations between two events, they can form a causal link between them as well.”
They also discovered that once rats observe two events together, it not only forms an association but also an expectation. For example, if two lights occur at the same time, a rat will expect one light to occur whenever the other one does. But even more remarkably, if researchers cover one of the lights so that the rat cannot see it and then the researchers present the other light, the rats take actions as though the hidden light might be on. According to Blaisdell, “They maintain an image or expectation that the light is present even though they can’t see it.”
“Rats, and many other nonhuman species, continue to provide a treasure trove of information about cognition and reasoning,” said Blaisdell. By merely looking at an animal is like looking into a mirror that reflects back a part of ourselves, he concluded.