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Rats Show Empathy, Too

Posted Dec 20 2011 3:50pm

Empathy. There are a number of studies out claiming that some autistics lack empathy in one form or another. In a recent NIH research matters article discussing an empathy study, a researcher is quoted:

“All of this tells us that acting on empathic feelings to help another in need is a biological and in fact a neurobiological mandate,” Mason says. “It’s in our brain.”

Empathy is basic. It’s fundamental. It’s in our brain.

Just to throw a twist into the argument for those who didn’t click on the link above, the research involved empathy in rats. Yes, in rats we seek to demonstrate that they have empathy. In autistics, there is work ongoing to demonstrate a lack of empathy.

Here’s a picture of the experiment

A rat is placed in a tube. A second rat is able to open the tube from the outside to release the entrapped rat. Based on various conditions where the free rats do or don’t release the entrapped rats, the researchers determine that the free rats are demonstrating empathy.

I’m going out on a speculative limb here: my guess is that if I were encased in a plexiglass tube, I could count on people, autistic or not, opening the door to let me out.

  1. Autism Blog – Rats Show Empathy, Too « Left Brain/Right Brain | My Autism Site | All About Autism:
    [...] Visit link: Autism Blog – Rats Show Empathy, Too « Left Brain/Right Brain [...]
  2. Kilroy:
    Empathy is just a garbled and overly confusing concept, an easy way for pseudoscience to slip through the net.

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