Selfies Are For Animals Too

I came across a charming story of a photographer who made a major discovery about rats. It got me wondering if we share the need to shine!

1/23/20241 min read

I recently came across an article by Emily Anthes about a photographer by the name of Augustin Lignier who did an interesting thing with rats in Paris. He trained the two to take selfies of themselves.

The cute photos make you feel like they definitely know what they are doing and almost appear to 'pose'. This all started because the artist wondered why we insist on taking so many images of ourselves and of course sharing them every chance we get.

These were regular pet store rats who apparently relished the chance to explore the apparatus he built to enable this psychological experiment. He based the design on the pellet- dispensing model that B.F. Skinner designed to analyze rat behaviour.

The lever the rats had to push was created to be perfectly proportioned for little claws. By doing this, the rats were dispenses a dose of sugar. So in essence, they were instantly addicted. In fact after training, the treat was not always dispensed yet they still engaged and looked like they were having fun.

There were even times when the sugar did appear, they did not bother to take it and seemed to be more enthusiastic about the mechanics instead. The photographer equates this to the emotions we feel when addicted to platforms that offer addictive content and algorithms. The same can be said for our phones and the attention we pay to them.

Perhaps this little experiment shows us something about ourselves that rats seem to understand. The novelty of something new is addictive as is our desire to be seen.