New Study Reveals Mice Experience Regret and Learn To Avoid It in Future

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Research from the University of Minnesota reveal that mice are capable of learning from failures to avoid regret in the future.

A failure can lead to the experience of regret and drive an individual to compensate for one’s losses.  The particular behavior was once thought to be unique to humans. However, a new research from the University of Minnesota discovered that mice learn to avoid regret and plan ahead even if there is no reward from a task. The research was conducted by Brian M. Sweis, Mark J. Thomas, and A. David Redish. The team devised a behavioral experiment which trained the mice to run around a track, while deciding to wait for food at different restaurants. Every time the mice came across a restaurant while running down the track, it waited to receive the food and decided to spend some time waiting for the food or skip to try its luck at the other restaurants down the track. As each individual mice had different preferences in the flavor of food offered, they showed patience to wait for a different amount of time for each flavor.

The researchers experienced that the mice changed their decision making strategies over a period of month. In the initial phase of experiments, the mice showed no tendency to change their mind and were willing to pay for their mistakes in deciding whether to wait or not to even if there was no reward of food at the restaurant. However, when the duration of getting food at a restaurant increased with a compensation to receive plenty of food, the mice choose to back out of the deal. Such economic strategies are evident in human behavior where change of mind decisions are the hall mark of regret and counterfactual reasoning. The research was published in the journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) Biology on June 21, 2018.

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