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Behav Processes. 2006 Nov 1;73(3):315-24. Epub 2006 Aug 1.

Maintenance of delay of gratification by four chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): the effects of delayed reward visibility, experimenter presence, and extended delay intervals.

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  • 1Language Research Center, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 5010, Atlanta, GA 30303, United States. <>


Previous research in our laboratory has demonstrated that chimpanzees can delay gratification by inhibiting consumption of available food items for as long as 3 min as an experimenter transfers additional food items from a transparent container to a bowl placed in front of the subject. In this study, we examined the influence of the visibility of the food source, as well as the presence of the experimenter, on four chimpanzees' self-control in this paradigm. In Experiment 1 an experimenter transferred 15 preferred food items between a distant opaque container and a bowl placed in front of the subject. In Experiment 2 we tested the chimpanzees with an automated system that (in the absence of the experimenter) transferred up to 36 highly preferred food items from a universal food dispenser to a container located either inside or outside of the subject's enclosure. There were no differences in self-directed behaviors or attentiveness to the food items between the self-imposed and externally imposed delay conditions. A final experiment with the automated paradigm indicated that individuals could delay gratification for up to 11min in order to obtain all 36 food items.

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