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The Intelligent Rat

Your pet rat is probably a lot smarter than you realize.  We are going to prove it by giving three examples of how smart rats are.


Games aren’t just for kids.  Rats love them too!

Or at least it appears that way based on a study conducted at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Annika Reinhold tested a group of rats, letting them loose in a 300-square foot room that contained boxes and other obstacles.

Reinhold used those obstacles as hiding places and trained the rats to find her.  She also trained them to hide from her. The rats learned which boxes were best for hiding and didn’t come out until they were found.     

And they seemed to have a great time as they leaped for joy and released rat giggles.

Rats Help Each Other

Another fascinating study revealed that rats rescue each other from traps. This study was led by Jean Decety and Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal. 

The team placed pairs of rats inside enclosures.  One member of each pair was allowed to wander about the enclosure, while the other was trapped inside a plastic tube.

The rats that wandered went over to the tube and opened it, rescuing the rats who were trapped inside.  This behavior continued through the remainder of the test. 

The researchers also tried placing rats into the enclosure when the tube was empty.  The rats didn’t pay any attention to it. 

The researchers even put stuffed rats inside the tube.  But still, the rodents didn’t bother opening it unless there was a live rat inside. 

Perhaps the most amazing part of this study involves chocolate.  When rats were given this treat, they freed the trapped rat first then shared the chocolate. 

Rats Perform Better Than Humans

Ben Vermarcke conducted a study at KU Leuven that compared humans to rodents.  The lab rats and students were given two cognitive learning tasks.  The purpose of each task was to identify “good” patterns and “bad” patterns. 

But this study looked beyond a rodent’s capacity to differentiate.  It also analyzed a human’s and rat’s ability to apply what they discover to new patterns.

According to the Harvard Business Review, In the first task, the patterns varied on only one dimension—either orientation or spacing—and rats and humans performed it equally well.”

But things got more interesting in the second pattern, which “varied on both dimensions, and the rats did better than the humans.”

When asked to explain why, Vermarcke replied that humans have been conditioned to make rules-based decisions, which was what the first task focused on. 

During the second task, the human participants weren’t quite as successful as the rats were.  Why? Because rodents are not bound by our rules-based system.  Instead, they focus on categorization. 

The way Vermaercke puts it, rats would ask, “Does this pattern look like the “good” targets we saw in training?”

Based on the results of his study and numerous other studies, Vermaercke claims that rats do have high levels of discernment.  He is confident that these rodents can handle complex tasks.

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