Date of Thesis



The benefits animals derive from living in social groups have produced the evolution of many forms of cooperative behavior. To cooperate, two or more individuals coordinate their actions to accomplish a common goal. One cognitive process that has the potential to influence cooperation is self control. Individuals delaying their impulsive choice for an immediate reward may potentially receive a larger reward later by cooperating with others. In this study, I measured whether brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) were capable of impulse control and whether impulse control was related to cooperation. Impulse control and cooperation were measured using a lazy susan-like apparatus, on which animals could turn a wheel to receive food rewards. The capuchins went through two training phases that taught them how to turn the wheel efficiently to obtain rewards and how to turn the wheel to obtain the larger of two rewards. After training, I tested impulse control by giving the capuchins a choice between a smaller and a larger reward placed at shorter or more distant locations on the wheel. The capuchins demonstrated impulse control in that they tended to inhibit the impulse to select the smaller reward when it was closer and easier to reach and instead selected the larger reward when it was farther away. Cooperation was tested in all possible dyads of seven individuals, a total of 21 dyads, by allowing each dyad 10 trials to work together with effort on the lazy-susan so that each would obtain a reward. Seventeen out of 21 dyads cooperated by simultaneously moving the wheel in the same direction. The correlation between how often a particular dyad cooperated and their average impulse control score was not statistically significant, r(21) = -.125, p = .591. Capuchins demonstrated impulse control and cooperation using this novel apparatus but the two abilities were not related. Other factors such as the unique social relationship between two individuals may play a more prominent role in the motivation to cooperate rather than the cognitive capacity to inhibit behavior.


self control, cooperation, New World monkeys

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)


Animal Behavior

First Advisor

Peter Judge