Comparative Cognition

Robotic rat friends

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1260-1261
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6420.1260-g

Robots are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout society. Surprisingly perhaps, humans can feel a sense of altruism and empathy with robots that have human or animal traits. Such responses raise questions about how robots might affect social interactions. Quinn et al. show that rats, a highly social species that displays several types of reciprocity and empathy, will help small robots “escape” from a cage. Help is even more prompt for those robots that show rat-like social and helping behaviors. These results raise important questions about the impact of robot deployment, not just for humans but for other social species too. Importantly, these findings also dispel some of the questions that have been raised about the validity of empathy findings in species other than our own.

Anim. Behav. Cogn. 5, 368 (2018).

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