Self-Control and Tool Use in Tufted Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus Apella)

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Abstract

Self-control is defined as forgoing immediate gratification to obtain a greater reward. Tool use may relate to self-control because both behaviors may require foresight and deliberate control over one's actions. The authors assessed 20 capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) for the ability to delay gratification in a tool task. Subjects were given rod-shaped food items that could either be consumed immediately or be carried to an apparatus and used to extract a more preferred food. The authors found that some monkeys were able to exhibit self-control. Monkeys with relatively more tool use experience demonstrated the greatest levels of self-control. These results indicate that capuchins are capable of delaying gratification when a higher quality reinforcer is present and that tool experience can influence levels of self-control in this task.

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