It takes two to give

My mom was supposed to come visit me this past week while I have been teaching in Paris. She was scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning and in a reprisal of our fabulous time together in 2015 (see picture above), we planned to pack our afternoons with art museums and our evenings with concerts. Then, a few days before she was due […]

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Can rats feel socially rejected?

Three years ago, an incoming University of Chicago student named Haozhe Shan emailed me asking for an opportunity to work in my laboratory. His letter was well written and demonstrated a focussed and specific interest in social neuroscience. I agreed to talk with him and immediately liked him. Even prior to taking a single college class, he had a knowledge of psychology […]

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We help because it feels good

A friend sent me a link to this video in which one tortoise rights another tortoise that is on its back. Watching this video, I sensed that the helping tortoise really wanted to help the upside down tortoise. I was rooting for the helping tortoise to succeed and wholly relieved when s/he successfully rolled the other tortoise onto its feet. I say “s/he” […]

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Exploring the bystander effect

I just finished reading an astounding book, The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help? by Bibb Latané and John M Darley (Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1970). Latané and Darley set out to understand what makes the modern bystander so apparently apathetic and callous, watching but not helping as others are hurt, maimed and even die. They ask whether urbanization has created such […]

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Empathic rats… and TV

Last week, out of the blue, I received the above video from Oxford Scientific Films. Well, maybe not entirely out of the blue but certainly long after I’d given the footage any thought. Let me explain. In spring of 2013, a producer from Oxford Scientific Films contacted me about filming our empathic rats for use in a documentary to be aired on BBC. I have a great deal of respect for BBC and despite the fact that rats are reluctant “movie stars,” I agreed. I knew that the production would be well done and I wanted our rats to gain the exposure that a BBC show could afford them. So on Sunday, July 7th, 2013, I met a crew at my laboratory. Filming went well. Victoria Huang and Amisha Gandhi, two University of Chicago undergraduates in my laboratory, had patiently worked with the rats. The rats were so mellow that they were completely non-plussed by the cameras and strangers. They were stars as you can see for yourself. The day was long but quite enjoyable. And we were even able to crowd together and listen to Andy Murray win Wimbledon. Our British visitors were happy and proud. The show was designed to highlight relationships between individuals from different species. Our work was included because the empathic feeling that links two rats is likely to be related to the feeling that connects two from different species. Originally, we heard that the show […]

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