CZAAWE Resource Article

Self-control and tool use in tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Journal of Comparative Psychology
1939-2087 0735-7036
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.