Event Title

Session 3D: The Effect of Shared Emotional States on Helping Behavior in Rats and its Basis in Empathy

Session Number

Session 3D: 3rd Presentation

Advisor(s)

Peggy Mason, University of Chicago

Location

Room A155

Start Date

28-4-2017 1:15 PM

End Date

28-4-2017 2:30 PM

Abstract

Empathy is a complex psychological phenomenon that motivates the occurrence of helping behaviors. Four experiments were performed to examine the effects of motivation, lack of social interaction, and decreased emotional contagion on helping behavior in rats. In our experimental paradigm, two rats were placed into an arena, with one rat in a restrainer and the other free to move around. Helping behaviors were defined as the release of a trapped rat by a free rat. Free rats did not exhibit helping behaviors in the absence of trapped rast, while they did help when cagemates or stranger rats were trapped. In order to study how helping behaviors are altered when the brain’s ability to process emotional signals is limited, rats were injected with Midazolam, an anxiety reducing drug, and anesthesia. The speed at which the free rat releases the trapped rat is indicative of the strength of its empathetic response. When the trapped rat was injected with midazolam, the response of the free rat was longer and less frequent. However, more prosocial behaviors occurred when trapped rats were injected with anesthesia. The results and conclusions of this experiment will be presented. By studying empathy in rats, we can develop an understanding of human empathetic motivations, which form the basis of human relationships.

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Apr 28th, 1:15 PM Apr 28th, 2:30 PM

Session 3D: The Effect of Shared Emotional States on Helping Behavior in Rats and its Basis in Empathy

Room A155

Empathy is a complex psychological phenomenon that motivates the occurrence of helping behaviors. Four experiments were performed to examine the effects of motivation, lack of social interaction, and decreased emotional contagion on helping behavior in rats. In our experimental paradigm, two rats were placed into an arena, with one rat in a restrainer and the other free to move around. Helping behaviors were defined as the release of a trapped rat by a free rat. Free rats did not exhibit helping behaviors in the absence of trapped rast, while they did help when cagemates or stranger rats were trapped. In order to study how helping behaviors are altered when the brain’s ability to process emotional signals is limited, rats were injected with Midazolam, an anxiety reducing drug, and anesthesia. The speed at which the free rat releases the trapped rat is indicative of the strength of its empathetic response. When the trapped rat was injected with midazolam, the response of the free rat was longer and less frequent. However, more prosocial behaviors occurred when trapped rats were injected with anesthesia. The results and conclusions of this experiment will be presented. By studying empathy in rats, we can develop an understanding of human empathetic motivations, which form the basis of human relationships.