Delay maintenance in Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana) and brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

M. Pele, Jerome Micheletta, P. Uhlrich, B. Thierry, V. Dufour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animals commonly face choices requiring them to wait and postpone action. The ability to delay gratification is a prerequisite for making future-oriented decisions. We investigated the ability of brown capuchins (Cebus apella) and Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana) to delay benefits in several experiments. In exchange tasks, subjects had to return a piece of cookie after a given time lag to obtain a larger one from an experimenter. Capuchins could wait 10–40 s and macaques 20–80 s depending on subjects and the size of rewards. Both groups were able to anticipate delay durations, but unlike macaques, capuchins discounted all sizes of reward at the same speed, meaning that their delay-maintenance was not affected by the reward size. When the subjects could give the initial piece of cookie back immediately and then wait for the return, performances increased to 10–21 min for capuchins and 21–42 min for macaques, demonstrating the role of consumption inhibition in postponing gratification. In a further task, we presented subjects with an accumulation of food pieces added at short intervals until they seized them. On average, brown capuchins could wait 33–42 s and macaques 38–72 s before seizing the rewards. Our results confirmed that brown capuchins were more impulsive than Tonkean macaques in several tasks. We did not find significant differences between the waiting performances of the Tonkean macaques and those previously reported in long-tailed macaques. The contrasting performances of macaques and capuchins might be related to their different skills in the physical and social domains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-166
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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