There is an experiment done with white rats in a lab. A rat is placed in a chamber in which it’s trapped and cannot escape. Another rat is introduced into this experiment who has the ability to release the first rat from its captivity. When the two rats are the same variety of rat, this happens relatively easily. The second rat sees one of its fellows in distress and rescues it. However, when the trapped rat is of a different variety than the second rat, the second one is much more likely to pass the first rat by and not help. In short, lab rats are bigoted jerks.
But all is not lost. If a lab rat is put in an enclosure with a rat of a different variety for a period of time, then when that rat encounters a trapped rat of that variety, it is much more likely to help. It seems that just knowing one member of a different group helps the rat to develop a sense of empathy for all the members of that group. In short, rats don’t have to remain bigoted jerks. They are capable of change and expansion of their “in” group.
It’s hard not to look at the world today and not to feel that the world is inhabited by individuals who would not even live up to the example set by these hapless rats in their laboratory cages.
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