If you're looking for the next great thinker, you may want to start by visiting your local pet store. Turns out, research shows that laboratory rats possess the ability to think about what they do and do not know.
Metacognition is the ability to reason or think about one's own thinking.It's the first example and demonstration of any non-primate that shows when they don't know something.
The test consisted of offering rewards to rats to defining a signal as short or long. Correct answers lead to a food reward and the incorrect answer lead to squat.
The twist? The rats were given a choice to opt out of the test completely, resulting a much smaller food reward.
The rats were basically forced into a game of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" but with food. Extensively long or short signals resulted in relatively quick, and correct, choices. But signals that bordered on the mid-range had the rats questioning whether to take the chance for a bounty of food, or opt out for the tiny, but guaranteed nibble.
The results showed that the rats declined more difficult tests and showed the lowest accuracy on difficult tests that they were forced to do.
We expect some Shakespeare-writing rats in the next experiment!