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Why rats are smarter than people

We’ve shamelessly borrowed this from Dave Trott’s Blog

Many years ago I heard something that changed my thinking.

It goes like this:
Supposing, in a laboratory, you have a rat.

You also have nine small tunnels side-by-side.

You put a piece of cheese at the end of tunnel 7.

Then you let the rat loose.

The rat can smell the cheese.

So it runs along the mouth of all the tunnels sniffing to see which one’s got the cheese.

It finds the smell is strongest at tunnel 7.

So it runs down that tunnel and gets the cheese.

The next day you do the same thing.

You put the cheese in tunnel 7 again.

The rat runs in again, sniffs all the tunnels, then runs down 7 and gets the cheese.

You do it a few times and the rat soon gets the message, the cheese is always down tunnel 7.

So it doesn’t bother sniffing all the other tunnels.

It just runs straight down tunnel 7 and gets the cheese.

Then you switch tunnels.

You put the cheese at the end of tunnel 3.

The rat runs in, runs straight down 7 looking for the cheese.

No cheese.

The rat runs out and sniffs along all the tunnels.

Then the rat smells it in tunnel 3.

So the rat runs down tunnel 3 and gets the cheese.

Now you try the same experiment with a human and here’s what would happen.

The first time around the human goes along and smells all the tunnels.

The human smells the cheese down tunnel 7.

So the human goes down tunnel 7 and gets the cheese.

The next day you do the same thing.

You put the cheese in tunnel 7, the human goes down that tunnel and gets the cheese.

Eventually the human, like the rat, learns the cheese is always at the end of tunnel 7.

So, like the rat, it doesn’t bother smelling the other tunnels, it just goes straight to tunnel 7, without even thinking.

Then one day you switch the cheese to tunnel 3.

The human goes straight down tunnel 7 looking for the cheese.

No cheese.

Now here’s where the human differs from the rat.

The rat will come out and check all the other tunnels.

The human will spend their entire life walking up and down tunnel 7.

Back and forth, complaining that the cheese should be there.

It’s not fair, the cheese is always in tunnel 7.

What’s gone wrong, why isn’t the cheese in tunnel 7, whose fault is it?

The human will complain to co-workers, and cry about the injustice.

We’ll get other humans to agree with us that we’re right, the cheese should be there.

We’ll go over the pub and get drunk and tell everyone how we got screwed.

We’ll get on the phone to our friends and go on and on about the unfairness of it.

In our head we’ll imagine scenes of getting even with whoever moved the cheese.

We’ll make them regret it.

We know they had it in for us, never even gave us a chance.

We’ll carry the unfairness of it to our grave.

As humans, we’ll spend our entire lives talking and bitching and moaning about the fact that the cheese should be there.

But it isn’t there.

The one thing we won’t do is drop it, and go out and look for where the cheese actually is.

We’ve got too much invested in complaining about where it should be.

We’d rather be ‘right’ than have the cheese.

And that addiction to being right is what stops us getting the cheese.

Which is what we say we want.

But what we actually want is to be ‘right’.

And we want that more than we want the cheese.

And that’s why rats are smarter than people.

This article was authored by Dave Trott and first appeared on his blog.

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