What is it about?

Many studies have attempted to shed light on the ability of non-human animals to understand physical causality by examining their tool use behavior. My study suggests that rats have a primitive ability to understand causal relationships in the physical environment. This finding suggests that rats can potentially serve as an animal model to study the mechanisms of evolution and development of physical causal understanding in humans.

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Why is it important?

The tool-use tasks in the previous studies on rodents are problematic because the subjects could obtain the reward by using the tools through simple stimulus generalization (the transfer of a learned response from one stimulus to another similar stimulus), simple trial-and-error learning (learning by accidental success which followed certain reactions of the subject), or simple patterned behavior (behavior which was acquired through trainings by repeating the behavior for many times) rather than physical causal understanding. My study is the first to demonstrate that some rats can manipulate the tool in the direction of the food without being able to use a similar behavioral strategy based on manipulating the tool in the correct-direction in the test as in the training.

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This page is a summary of: Rats’ (Rattus norvegicus) tool manipulation ability exceeds simple patterned behavior, PLoS ONE, December 2019, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226569.
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