Playing well with others

When one rat is imprisoned in a tiny restrainer, a free rat circles and circles, scraping his teeth against the restrainer and poking his whiskers through its small openings.

After five days, the free rat finally pushes a door with his head and frees the imprisoned rat. Stunned at first, the liberator jumps on the freed rat and licks him.

In the November/December 2012 issue of The University of Chicago Magazine, researchers Peggy Mason, Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and Jean Decety report that they have found that rats are eager to help each other.

Such selflessness makes evolutionary sense for rats and other mammals, too, these researchers conclude. Helping others in distress is instinctual. In short, “we are built to play well with others.”

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