Rats feel regret, experiment finds

Rodents rue missed opportunities for food

1:03pm, June 9, 2014

LAMENTING A LOSS  When a rat realizes it messed up, its body and brain show signs of regret, a new study suggests. 

With only an hour to eat, a diner hurries into his favorite restaurant. Deterred by a modest wait, he leaves, only to be burned by an even longer wait at the next restaurant. He immediately regrets his decision. This may seem like a typical “woulda, coulda, shoulda” situation — except in this case, the diner is a rat.

In laboratory tests, rodents exhibit regret, scientists report June 8 in Nature Neuroscience. After forgoing a good meal for a bad one, rats pause, glance back at what could have been and change their subsequent behavior. Scientists even caught signs of regret in rats’ brains: Nerve cells behaved as though the rats were back at the scene of the missed opportunity.

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