Rats Feel Regret After Bad Choices

You’re not the only one who regrets crossing paths with a rat on your street corner; he probably feels the same. Rats are the first animals other than humans that scientists have discovered are capable of recognizing wrong decisions and regretting them. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that rats expressed regret in both their behavior and neural activity. When the rats were in a maze, they had a choice to eat food at a section and wait an allotted time or move onto the next section. When they made the wrong decision and moved on to the next section where they had to wait even longer for food, they felt regret. Electrodes tracked their brain activity to show their sense of regret, but they also physically looked backward and waited longer than normal at the next section. “Just like humans,” said neuroscientist David Redish, the rats were more likely to take a “bad deal” after a regretful decision. And just like us, they tend to eat their feelings, consuming treats faster after feelings of regret. It may buy the vermin a little more empathy when you see them crawl across your kitchen, but probably not enough to regret killing them.