Animals Feel Regret

When it comes to food choices

OutsideOnline rat maze trick experiment experience regret food snack reward good option wheel-spoke Redish Labs neuroscientists bread cherry scramble foodie paused look back could have been

Damn your tricks, humans!     Photo: lculig/Getty Images

Neuroscientists from the Redish Lab at the University of Minnesota claim that rats that move from one potential food reward to a less desirable but immediately gratifying snack look back on the original option with regret.

Researchers developed Restaurant Row, a wheel-spoke maze of food rewards that assessed how long rats would wait for the "good option," and considered the rats' decisions regret-induced. When the scrambling foodies decided not to wait on Restaurant Row and reached for an immediate reward, they often paused and looked back at the snack that didn't make them wait.

"You can wait at the Chinese restaurant and eat there," lead researcher David Redish told Wired, "or you can say, 'Forget it. This wait is too long,' and go to the Indian restaurant across the street."

Redish admits his findings do not represent the same regret-based synapse in humans and rats, but his team did identify and cater to each rat's preferred flavor palette, suggesting that rats feel something toward actions they do not take and that the subsequent change in behavior reflects rats' hasty appetites.

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