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Accepting loss: the temporal limits of reciprocity in brown capuchin monkeys

By A Ramseyer, M Pelé, V Dufour, C Chauvin and B Thierry


Delayed reciprocity is a potentially important mechanism for cooperation to occur. It is however rarely reported among animals, possibly because it requires special skills like the ability to plan a loss. We tested six brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) in such skills. Subjects were studied in exchange tasks in which they had to retain a food item for a given time lag before returning it to an experimenter and obtaining a more desirable reward. Experiments showed that the subjects could wait for several minutes when allowed to return only part of the initial item. When required to return the full item intact, however, most subjects could not sustain a time lag longer than 10 s. Although the duration of waiting increased with the amount of return expected by subjects, in most cases it did not extend beyond 20 s even when the eperimenter offered a food amount 40 fold the initial item. The failure of capuchin monkeys to sustain long-lasting waiting periods may be explained by limited self-control abilities. This would prevent them achieving reciprocal altruism

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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