Rats, like humans, contemplate problems by carefully weighing the costs and benefits of a situation before making decisions, according to a new study on Wistar rats, a rodent developed for research.
The study is the first to demonstrate that a non-human animal creates a desired ratio, or standard, to decide between options requiring varying levels of effort and that yield different rewards.
The researchers noted that rats seem to behave according to an internal constant standard, a relative ratio for each situation by which choices are measured. This is comparable to how a car purchaser may enter a dealership with a budget in mind. Since this standard varies depending on the situation, it is possibly part inherent and part created by individuals.
I think research such as this is really interesting and valuable because it demonstrates that animals other than humans are able to "think" about situations and to some extent use what we would call reasoning to work out how to behave in a particular situation.
To many people including myself it would seem ludicrous to suggest that animals, other than humans, are unable to think or to experience suffering and pleasure in a similar way to ourselves. However there are still many scientists who believe that animals are very similar to machines and react only in a limited pre-programmed way to stimuli in order to survive.
Such scientists need some form of scientific "proof" that animals can suffer both physically and mentally and this type of research will help. Hopefully if more people begin to accept that animals can "think" and have some form of self awareness then this will have positive implications for animal welfare.