September 24, 2023: A Rat's Hope
The Importance of Hope to Sustain Effort
“Hope is an essential constituent of human life.”
- Benjamin Franklin
A Rat’s Hope
In a series of cruel experiments, Johns Hopkins professor Curt Richter uncovered the profound impact of hope on determination and success—a lesson especially relevant for athletes and teams.
Richter’s research from the 1950s centered on a gruesome rat experiment. Richter tested rats by placing them in water-filled jars. The outcome was startling, these fierce and aggressive wild rats succumbed and drowned within minutes.
The wild rats, known for their swimming ability, would enter the water with an intense fight-or-flight response, then quickly give up. However, when he intervened for some rats, briefly removing them from the water and drying them off, their perseverance skyrocketed. These rats then swam for days!
What do you believe was the pivotal change for the rats?
It was hope, and here’s why.
The rats that were not taken out and dried off had no hope, just a sense of helplessness that caused them to give up. The rats that were taken out to be dried off for a moment were given a glimmer of hope, then believing something would intervene to help.
Humans and rats differ significantly, but a common thread emerges: the importance of hope in sustaining effort. Athletes and teams can draw inspiration from the findings in this study. When hope is present, so is the motivation to persist. The belief in the possibility of success fuels determination, while the absence of hope dampens resolve.
Whether on the field or in life, the presence of hope transforms potential surrender into resolute endurance.
©Troy Urdahl, 2023