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When Rats Make Wrong Decisions, They Regret: Study

Update Date: Jun 09, 2014 09:30 AM EDT

Like humans, when rats make the wrong decision, they experience feelings of regret, according to a new study. 

When rats were given the option of visiting rooms that contained different foods, and they skipped a good deal for a worse one, they glanced back at the former room, rushed through eating the snack and were more likely to tolerate longer wait times for what they considered the more desirable food , researchers found, reported LiveScience

Researchers also found that the rat's brain activity represented the missed opportunity that suggested that animals in fact, experience regret over their choice. 

"The rat is representing the counterfactual - the 'what might have been,'" David Redish, a neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and senior author of the study detailed in the study.

Researchers added that the study is first to show convincingly that any animal besides humans experience regret. To closest, previous studies only hinted that it was possible. 

Researchers also pointed that regret and disappointment are two different things. 

"Regret occurs when you make a mistake, but recognize there's an alternate action you could have taken that would have resulted in a better outcome, he said. Disappointment happens when the world's just not as good as you hoped, but it's not necessarily your fault," Redish told LiveScience

"Regret is something we think of as very human and very cognitive," Redish said in the press release, but "we're seeing that the rats are much more cognitive than we thought."

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