Who would have thought that rats can feel regret? Now, now, let's not get cynical, I mean the four-legged variety of rat. Apparently scientists at the University of Minnesota have discovered that rats can feel regret as they ponder missed opportunities to eat their favourite things. The experiment was pretty elaborate (for a rat) and indicated that the animals had an individual reaction to lost opportunities. If you would like to read details here is a link to the report on National Geographic Ratty Tests.
Is there a lesson for us all here? Are we cleverer than a bunch of rodents? Do we feel regret at things we should have done or would have done if things had been different? Points to ponder, I agree. And yet isn't that a perfectly normal reaction for humans? How many times have we sighed and said "why didn't I....?" If we were sure of doing the right thing and making the right choices all the time we'd be pretty boring and unbearable people.
What is far more interesting in this study is not that rats feel regret but that scientists set up elaborate experiments with rodents to prove something we all know anyway, something which, in my opinion doesn't need explanation or analysis. Maybe the scientists should do a bit of navel-gazing - can you imagine the comments? "If only we'd used cats/dogs/sheep instead of rats...." or "if only we'd done something worthwhile with all that time and money..."
By the way, I do not regret eating that chocolate bar last night as I watched the World Cup Soccer match between England and Italy. Sigh. If only I could have influenced the outcome.... Someone send for a behavioural scientist....