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

 

 

Beran, M. J., & Evans, T. A. (2009). Delay of gratification by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in working and waiting situations. Behavioural Processes, 80, 117-121.

We tested four chimpanzees in a self-control task in which food rewards accumulated as long as they were not eaten. In one condition, the chimpanzees had to perform a computer task that directly led to the delivery of the food rewards. In another condition, working on the computerized task was not required and any such work was not linked to the delivery of rewards. The third condition offered no computerized task (chimpanzees simply waited for food rewards to be delivered). Three of four chimpanzees showed no effect of the work scenario on delay of gratification. The one chimpanzee that showed an influence of work scenario on self-control was the overall poorest performing animal. This animal delayed gratification the longest, however, when work was required and reward delivery was directly linked to that work. Therefore, although there is little evidence linking delay of gratification to work requirements in chimpanzees, chimpanzees with lower overall self-control might benefit from having some work available if reward accumulation is contingent on performing that work.

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