Date of Thesis



Self-control allows an individual to obtain a more preferred outcome by forgoing an immediate interest. Self-control is an advanced cognitive process because it involves the ability to weigh the costs and benefits of impulsive versus restrained behavior, determine the consequences of such behavior, and make decisions based on the most advantageous course of action. Self-control has been thoroughly explored in Old World primates, but less so in New World monkeys. There are many ways to test self-control abilities in non-human primates, including exchange tasks in which an animal must forgo an immediate, less preferred reward to receive a delayed, more preferred reward. I examined the self-control abilities of six capuchin monkeys using a task in which a monkey was given a less preferred food and was required to wait a delay interval to trade the fully intact less preferred food for a qualitatively higher, more preferred food. Partially eaten pieces of the less preferred food were not rewarded, and delay intervals increased on an individual basis based on performance. All six monkeys were successful in inhibiting impulsivity and trading a less preferred food for a more preferred food at the end of a delay interval. The maximum duration each subject postponed gratification instead of responding impulsively was considered their delay tolerance. This study was the first to show that monkeys could inhibit impulsivity in a delay of gratification food exchange task in which the immediate and delayed food options differed qualitatively and a partially eaten less preferred food was not rewarded with the more preferred food at the end of a delay interval. These results show that New World monkeys possess advanced cognitive abilities similar to those of Old World primates.


Capuchin, Self-control, Impulsivity, Cognition, Qualitative Exchange, Delay of Gratification

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Peter Judge