See Inside December 2007/January 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Ignore

Primates can delay gratification to earn a bigger prize

When a person's behavior is out of control, people might say he is “going ape.” It appears, however, that our closest relatives can behave themselves better than we thought. New research in chimpanzees and monkeys could reveal clues about how self-control originated in humans.

Even children know that resisting instant gratification can lead to greater rewards. Past research showed that to cope with such delays kids can distract themselves by playing. Now psychologists Theodore Evans and Michael Beran of Georgia State University find that chimpanzees can also employ diversions to control themselves.

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