Today in 2016, researchers released a study that showed how you could influence rats to make risky bets in what they called – and I’m quoting here – a “rat casino.”
Let’s just pause a moment to let “rat casino” sink in.
This was a study out of the University of British Columbia.
They gave 32 rats the chance to choose from four options.
Some gave the rats a kind of time-out, which they didn’t like, while other options gave them sweet treats.
And, just like a slot machine, the game’s biggest rewards came with the biggest risks.
As the rats played the game they eventually they figured out that the best option was to aim for lower but more attainable rewards, while minimizing their risk.
But just when the rats thought they had the answers, the researchers changed the question.
They changed the rat casino so that when a rat got the biggest reward, they would also see flashing lights and hear loud sounds.
They turned a big win into a spectacle.
And after that, the rats were hooked.
They gave up on the effective strategy and went all in, baby, absolutely sure that they were going to hit it big if they just kept at it.
This was one of the points of the study, to demonstrate through research that all the glitz and glamour of a human casino was effective at getting gamblers to go past their usual risk tolerance and, by extension, put more money into the games.
But the study made another interesting finding.
They gave the casino rats a drug that blocked a certain dopamine receptor in the brain that’s been linked to addictive behavior, like problem gambling.
When the rats went back into the rat casino, they didn’t engage in the risky gambling, even with the flashing lights and the extra sounds.
So the study gave us a window into how problem gambling can begin, and also now we know what to do if we have a rat who’s engaging in excessively risky behavior for treats.
Also: do you think the band RATT would do a residency at a rat casino?
It’s National Cereal Day.
Back in 2020, Chex issued a special version of its cereal mix that was green onion flavored.
It’s kind of a long story, but people there had voted for a new flavor between green onion and chocolate.
Green onion appeared to win the vote, but the company made chocolate anyway… but after 16 years of requests, they put out the green onion flavor too.
And people loved it!
New research: Flashing lights and music turn rats into problem gamblers (University of British Columbia)
Photo by Onion via Flickr/Creative Commons