Rats influenced by the kindness of strangers

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Rats influenced by the kindness of strangers

If rats benefit from the kindness of strangers they are more likely to assist an unfamiliar rat in future. In doing so, they provide the first evidence of an unusual form of altruism that appears to violate evolutionary theory.

Claudia Rutte and Michael Taborsky of the University of Berne, Switzerland, trained rats to pull a lever that released food for their partner in the next cage. If the rats subsequently received snacks released by lever-pulling strangers in neighbouring cages, they were more likely to lever-pull and so feed another unfamiliar rat in the future. In other words, the rats became altruistic in response to a general level of cooperation in the population.

Theoretically, such "generalised reciprocity" shouldn't exist. In large groups, dirty rats will take advantage of helpful strangers and offer nothing in return.

It persists, says Taborsky, because exploited animals move away. "An animal is more likely to leave the group if it didn't receive cooperation in the past," he says. "This leads to cooperative and uncooperative groups in a population." If cooperative groups are better at exploiting the environment, generalised reciprocity remains in the population (PLoS Biology, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050196).

From issue 2611 of New Scientist magazine, 06 July 2007, page 17

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How did they get one lawyer

How did they get one lawyer to help another lawyer in the first place?  THere must have been a great deal of money involved.

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Thats really interesting.

Thats really interesting. Thanks for making that available.

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Altruism is a well observed

Altruism is a well observed phenomena in the animal kingdom and this is another excellent example of it.

A human's ethics are just subjective interpretation of altruism.