Quantcast
Connect with us

Rat pack: rodents feel peer-pressure to be helpful, says study

Published

on

Rats are less likely to assist a fellow rodent in need if other members of their group are being unhelpful, according to a study that sheds new light on the so-called “bystander effect.”

Peggy Mason, a neurobiologist at the University of Chicago and the senior author, told AFP the findings helped explain certain human behaviors such as why police officers fail to intervene when one of their own is engaging in brutality.

ADVERTISEMENT

In an experiment published in Science Advances on Wednesday, scientists found that when a rat encountered a distressed peer in a restrainer, they were generally interested in opening a door and rescuing them.

One or two bystanders, who were rendered unhelpful by giving them a low dose of the anti-anxiety drug midazolam, were then added to the scenario.

In the presence of these unhelpful bystanders, a rat that had previously been helpful in a one-on-one interaction now stood by idly and did not rescue the subject.

On the other hand, when undrugged, helpful bystanders were placed at the scene, a rat that had been helpful one-on-one became even more keen on being a good Samaritan.

“I think this is a very apt study for the times,” said Mason, pointing to how during recent US protests against police racism, protesters rushed to aid injured peers while police stood by.

ADVERTISEMENT

“In the George Floyd case, there were three other police officers, including one who went into the police force to change the narrative about police brutality against black people — and nonetheless, he stood by and did not intervene,” she added.

Mason likened these officers to the drugged rats, “except they didn’t take the chill pill, they took years of training.”

If a person does not help, “that individual is less likely to be a bad apple and more likely to just be an apple in the orchard, the orchard of mammalian behavior. This is what we do.”

ADVERTISEMENT

– Paradigm shift –

The term “bystander effect” was first coined by psychologists after the 1964 murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in New York, whose death was reportedly witnessed by more than 35 of her neighbors, none of whom intervened.

The story was later found to be highly misleading — but the basic finding held up in controlled experiments where human subjects were placed in distressing situations, such as smoke entering the room or a person having a seizure.

ADVERTISEMENT

When bystanders were added to these scenarios, members of the public who weren’t a part of the experiment often failed to respond.

This led psychologists to hypothesize that perhaps people weren’t willing to take responsibility when others were present.

Mason said the hypothesis suffered from a fatal flaw — the fact that the “bystanders” were in on the experiment and were acting indifferently on purpose.

ADVERTISEMENT

A study led by Richard Philpot and published in American Psychologist last year in fact found that in the real world, bystanders rarely stood by.

This paper reviewed more than 200 violent incidents recorded on surveillance cameras and showed that people intervened nine times out of 10.

Mason said her paper built on Philpot’s by showing that having helpful bystanders enhanced the desire to help, compared to when there was no audience watching.

On the other hand, having passive spectators decreased the impulse to assist, which reinforces what psychologists found in their early experiments decades ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mason’s team belives that in humans, as for rats, the decision to help or not is more likely linked to the brain’s internal reward circuitry than it is to notions of who should be responsible.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

US COVID death toll projected to hit almost 300,000 by December

Published

on

An influential novel coronavirus pandemic model now projects that deaths from the disease in the United States could hit almost 300,000 by the start of December.

NPR reports that researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation say that the United States is headed toward a grim fall in which COVID-19 deaths will nearly double from their current level of 160,000 in the next four months.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

This state was always key to Democrats’ 2020 ambitions: Less than 3 months from Election Day, their confidence is growing

Published

on

Over a year ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee opened an office in Austin, convinced that Texas would be central to building on the party's House majority in 2020.

Democrats think it turned out to be a pretty good bet.

With less than 100 days until the November election, they are increasingly optimistic about most of their pickup opportunities in Texas, where the DCCC is targeting seven seats. They have named five candidates across those races to their Red to Blue program for strong challengers, and they are even exploring additional pickup possibilities, recently polling in at least two districts that are not on their current target list.

Continue Reading
 

COVID-19

The only Texas prison reporting zero coronavirus cases is where inmates make soap. But that’s not what’s credited with protecting it.

Published

on

Of more than 100 Texas prison units, the Roach Unit's apparent ability to avoid the virus has been attributed to a remote location and a warden who strictly enforces precautionary measures.

The only Texas prison that hasn’t had any staff or inmates test positive for the new coronavirus is the same one where inmates make soap and package hand sanitizer for the state’s lockups. Prisoners aren’t allowed to use the latter.

How this one unit seemingly remains untouched by a virus that has ravaged the state’s prison system, however, has been credited not to its soap factory, but to the prison’s location and the warden’s strict enforcement of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s coronavirus policy. Meanwhile, those inside prisons with hundreds of infected inmates have long reported dangerous practices. In lawsuits and letters, they have described officers without face masks, forced intermingling between infected and healthy prisoners, and limits to soap and cleaning supplies.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image