Rats are capable of feeling regret, scientists say

 

Rats are capable of feeling regret about their own actions, an emotion that has never previously been found in any other mammals apart from humans.

Researchers set up a test called Restaurant Row in which the rats had to decide how long to wait for food.

“It's like waiting in line at the restaurant,” Professor David Redish, of Minnesota University, told BBC Nature News. "If the line is too long at the Chinese restaurant, then you give up and go to the Indian restaurant across the street."

In some cases, the rats decided to move on from one “restaurant” that offered nice food but was taking too long, only to find the next one offered a less popular dish.

Faced with this scenario, the rats often stopped and looked back at the previous restaurant and were more likely to wait for longer for something nice.

Professor Redish said they had had to be careful to design the study so that they could monitor signs of regret and not just disappointment.

"Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you would have been better off," he said.

"The hard part was that we had to separate disappointment, which is just when things aren't as good as you hoped. The key was letting the rats choose."

The study, published in “Nature Neuroscience”, questions claims that regret is a uniquely human emotion.

"In humans, a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex is active during regret. We found that in rats recognising that they made a mistake, their orbitofrontal cortex represented the missed opportunity," Professor Redish said.

"Interestingly, the rat's orbitofrontal cortex represented what the rat should have done, not the missed reward. This makes sense because you don't regret the thing you didn't get, you regret the thing you didn't do."

Dr Mark Walton, of Oxford University, who reviewed the research, said the findings were significant and praised the methodology. "It is a clever way to look at cognitive processes, seeing how rats perform these tasks can open up how they think and behave in the wild," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Registered Manager

£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This local charity has an oppor...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Content Curator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a mobile television network wi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a fast growing ...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash