One scientist would put a rat in a box to indicate the rat he would be looking for the scientist. Then the scientist would hide. Once the rat found him, the scientist would reward the rodent with tickles, Psychology Today reported.
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Then it would be the rat's turn to hide. The researcher would stoop down near the start box as the signal that the rat should find a spot within 90 seconds. Then the researcher would seek the animal. When found the rat was petted.
Not only did the rats play the game, but they were able to take on the appropriate roles and behaved differently when they were hiding than when they were seeking, according to Psychology Today.
For instance, when they were seeking, the animals were vocal when they jumped out of the start barks and when they found the person hiding. When the rats hid, they were quiet.
"We wonder if this relates to winning and losing," Michael Brecht, of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin said, according to Psychology Today. "In human hide-and-seek, when you are found you loose. When the rats are found, they don't make any sounds and they look a bit startled."
They also examined the brain signals the rats produced when playing the game. They said there was a neuronal activity that coincided with phases of the game.
The experts said the animals looked as if they were enjoying the game, and that it may be programed in the rat's development. The animals search frantically, teased the experimenter and jumped for joy. They also would try to hide again shortly after being found, seemingly to make the game go on longer, the journal Science reported.
"Our thinking is that we tapped into something the rats can already do," Brecht said, according to Psychology Today. "We think it might be a very old game that rats play naturally, though we have not proven that."