Friday, January 22, 2010

Rats can learn a cooperation game.

Yet another supposed barrier between human and animal smarts has fallen,  the assumption that only humans have the cognitive capabilities to play the famous 'Prisoner's Dilemma' game, i.e. to engage in reciprocity, which requires numerical discrimination, memory, and control of temporal discounting. Viana et al.:
We use an iterated PD game to test rats (Rattus norvegicus) for the presence of such cognitive abilities by manipulating the strategy of the opponent, Tit-for-Tat and Pseudo-Random, or the relative size of the temptation to defect. We found that rats shape their behaviour according to the opponent's strategy and the relative outcome resulting from cooperative or defective moves. Finally, we show that the behaviour of rats is contingent upon their motivational state (hungry versus sated).

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