Michael J. Beran, Ph.D.
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Last updated: 
September 1, 2021

 

 

Beran, M. J., Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S., Pate, J. L., & Rumbaugh, D. M. (1999). Delay of gratification in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Developmental Psychobiology, 34, 119-127.

Delay of gratification in three chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) was examined by using a paradigm based on research with children. The chimpanzees either pressed a door-bell button during a trial and received one reward (the immediate reward) or did not press the doorbell and received another reward (the delayed reward). Two chimpanzees were language-trained, and a 3rd was non-language-trained. Foods (one more-preferred and one less-preferred), photographs of those foods, or lexigrams representing those foods were presented to the chimpanzees. All 3 chimpanzees delayed gratification when foods were physically present. One language-trained chimpanzee also delayed gratification with lexigrams present, and the 2nd language-trained chimpanzee delayed gratification in all three conditions. Language competence and early rearing are proposed as explanations for the different performances of these chimpanzees.

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