Self-control assessments of capuchin monkeys with the rotating tray task and the accumulation task

Behav Processes. 2016 Aug;129:68-79. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2016.06.007. Epub 2016 Jun 11.


Recent studies of delay of gratification in capuchin monkeys using a rotating tray (RT) task have shown improved self-control performance in these animals in comparison to the accumulation (AC) task. In this study, we investigated whether this improvement resulted from the difference in methods between the rotating tray task and previous tests, or whether it was the result of greater overall experience with delay of gratification tasks. Experiment 1 produced similar performance levels by capuchins monkeys in the RT and AC tasks when identical reward and temporal parameters were used. Experiment 2 demonstrated a similar result using reward amounts that were more similar to previous AC experiments with these monkeys. In Experiment 3, monkeys performed multiple versions of the AC task with varied reward and temporal parameters. Their self-control behavior was found to be dependent on the overall delay to reward consumption, rather than the overall reward amount ultimately consumed. These findings indicate that these capuchin monkeys' self-control capacities were more likely to have improved across studies because of the greater experience they had with delay of gratification tasks. Experiment 4 and Experiment 5 tested new, task-naïve monkeys on both tasks, finding more limited evidence of self-control, and no evidence that one task was more beneficial than the other in promoting self-control. The results of this study suggest that future testing of this kind should focus on temporal parameters and reward magnitude parameters to establish accurate measures of delay of gratification capacity and development in this species and perhaps others.

Keywords: Accumulation task; Capuchin monkeys; Delay of gratification; Rotating tray task; Self-control.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cebus / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Self-Control*
  • Time Factors