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Would have, could have…

June 11, 2014

Neuroscientists at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, think they have evidence of regret in rats. If it holds up, that is a significant finding. Many questions about animal intelligence revolve around what different animals can model cognitively. Can they make plans involving multiple steps? Do they estimate what their peers are thinking? Will they recognize themselves in a mirror? Regret is different, because it requires some understanding of what isn’t and won’t be, but nonetheless might have been. Not quite counterfactual reasoning, but interesting still. The experiment would have felt familiar to anyone who goes out on Saturday night, since it put the rats on a “restaurant row,” with different choices having different wait times. (Cite.)

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