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You can learn from rats to improve time management

Rats can evaluate their performance and change their behaviour accordingly to do better next time, according to a new international study

Published: Feb 25, 2022 05:03:56 PM IST
Updated: Feb 25, 2022 05:14:18 PM IST

You can learn from rats to improve time managementContrary to what you might think, rats are highly intelligent animals.
Image: Carlos Aranguiz / Shutterstock


It is not always easy to estimate how long a task will take. Unless, you're a rat, it seems. These rodents are able to evaluate their performance and change their behavior accordingly to do better next time, according to a new international study.

Humans are not the only animals that can estimate a temporal error in their actions. Rats can too! This discovery was made by researchers from France's CNRS and CEA research centers, working with a scientist from the Polish Academy of Sciences. The team tested the time management abilities of rats by developing a behavioral task during which the rodents learned to press a lever for at least 3.2 seconds.

In a second phase, two feeders delivered a reward according to the animal's performance. If the animal completed the task with a small error, just above 3.2 seconds, it received food in the left feeder, and in case of a larger deviation, this was delivered by the right feeder. This allowed the rats to understand that the location of their reward was based on their accuracy.

In the third stage, the rodents were given a choice between the two feeders. They received a reward for choosing a particular feeder. The scientists found that the rats chose the feeder corresponding to their temporal error. The one on the left if they completed their assigned task within 3.2 seconds, and the one on the right if they took longer.

The researchers found that, on each trial, the rats evaluated the accuracy with which they performed the task. They were even able to estimate their margin of error. Contrary to what you might think, rats are highly intelligent animals. Their good episodic memory allows them to retain multiple and distinct pieces of information from past experiences. They are even capable of solidarity and altruism, as demonstrated by two separate studies conducted by scientists in Japan and by researchers from the University of Chicago.

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