Once people are in line, they tend to stay in line, according to a neuroscience professor. - AFP image
Once people are in line, they tend to stay in line, according to a neuroscience professor. – AFP image

NEW YORK, April 16 / PRNewswire / – Economists know that people who spend time or money on something have a hard time withdrawing – even if their project is doomed to failure.

Well, it seems mice and rats seem to have the same weaknesses, according to a study published in the US magazine on Thursday science,

Economists say that this includes the so-called "sunk cost" fallacy.

Suppose you buy tickets for a show. There is no point in leaving, just to leave, when you decide that you do not like what it is about, you say, or you are tired. Whether you go or not, you will not get your money back.

And for the countries, just because a lot of money has been spent on a program, there is no point in pumping when it is no longer in the national interest.

Researchers have long studied whether animals are like humans in this respect – just because they have worked with them in the past.

Scientists at three neuroscientific and psychological laboratories at the University of Minnesota conducted a coordinated experiment on mice, rats and humans.

Guess what happened?

"Mice, rats and humans all behaved similarly," said David Redish, a neuroscience professor at the university and co-author of the study, told AFP.

Waiting for a reward

The rodents were trained to dine in a labyrinth with four "restaurants", one in each corner. At each attempt they arrived in a so-called "supply zone" where a sound informed them about the waiting time to get something to eat – in this case flavored pellets.

When the animals accept the offer, they go to a waiting area where an acoustic countdown tells them how long to wait – from one to 30 seconds. Previously, they were trained to understand these sounds.

For humans, a similar experiment was carried out with video rather than food as bait. You could see kittens, landscapes, ballroom dancing or bicycle accidents.

The waiting time until you see the video is represented by a download bar.

In any case, the human participants could simply say no to wait and move on to the next room or video.

The experiments showed that rodents, such as humans, tend to exhaust the waiting time after the onset of waiting.

"The more they can stand it, the more likely they are to end it," Redish said.

It's like people standing in line, he said.

"As soon as you get into line, you stay in line, and the longer you stand in line, the more likely you are to stay in line," added Redish.

But the wait is not free because the total duration of the experiment is limited.

Thus, the longer a rodent waits in a given room for its preferred pellet – such as banana or chocolate flavor – the less food it can absorb during the test.

Redish makes that comparison: "I'll wait that 30 seconds for this caviar, though it would be true if it was five seconds, it would be worth it all.

"But 30 seconds for the caviar, I should really skip it because maybe I would get a five-second potato down the line."

The study had its limitations: it included only 65 people (university students), 32 mice and 32 rats. Moreover, the tasks they faced were not identical. But it paves the way for further experiments.

The challenge ahead is to know that the same phenomenon is being observed in all species, "said Shelly Flagel, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study The New York Times, – AFP



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