Rats giggle too

Ten years ago when neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp published his research showing that rats laugh when you tickle them, he might have gotten laughed off the stage. Most people still thought that “sophisticated” emotions like laughter required the kind of consciousness that we associate only with humans. But Panksepp’s research is winning them over. Panksepp says,

Although some still regard laughter as a uniquely human trait, honed in the Pleistocene, the joke’s on them.

For more info, see John Tierney in the New York Times. For an accessible essay by Panksepp, see “Beyond a Joke: From Animal Laughter to Human Joy?” Science, 1 April 2005. Thanks to Sandy Hockenbury of Boulder Media Women for the heads-up.

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4 Responses to Rats giggle too

  1. Gail Storey says:June 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    This video about tickling rats to hear their laughter tickled me to pieces! Thanks so much, I loved it.

  2. What can I say? I’m tickled! Not at all surprised, though.

  3. I loved the joy captured in this video! It was amazing to me that a scientist could be so unambiguous about calling it laughter! Refreshing!

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:January 29, 2010 at 8:33 am

      Yes, there is quite a change taking place in the biological sciences when it comes to identifying feelings in other creatures. Thank goodness!