Rats are better than many people. The Telegraph writes:
Rats actually display human-like empathy and will unselfishly go to the aid of a distressed fellow rodent, research has shown.
The results of an experiment in which rats opened a door to free trapped cage-mates astonished scientists. No reward was needed and not even the lure of chocolate distracted the rescuing rats.
”This is the first evidence of helping behaviour triggered by empathy in rats,” said US study leader Professor Jean Decety. ”There are a lot of ideas in the literature showing that empathy is not unique to humans, and it has been well demonstrated in apes, but in rodents it was not very clear.”
Psychology graduate student Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, who helped devise the experiment, pointed out that the rats were not trained in any way. ”These rats are learning because they are motivated by something internal,” she said. ”We’re not showing them how to open the door, they don’t get any previous exposure on opening the door, and it’s hard to open the door. But they keep trying and trying, and it eventually works.”
Commenting on the research, Professor Jaak Panksepp, a US veterinary expert at Washington State University, said: ”There is no question that all other animals have emotional feelings. The science is strong for that. And all our strongest basic emotional feelings come from brain networks all mammals share.”