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Self-control is often required in natural situations involving interactions with other individuals, and personal self-control can be compromised if other individuals act impulsively. In this study, we tested self-control in pairs of chimpanzees in a variety of settings where at least one chimpanzee of each pair performed an established test for self-control in which candies accumulated one at time as long as the chimpanzee did not eat any of them. When tested alone, some chimpanzees exhibited greater self-control as compared to when tested alongside a chimpanzee that independently performed the same type of test. However, when the nonfocal animal freely consumed rewards while the focal chimpanzee performed the accumulation task, the self-control of some focal chimpanzees was elevated as compared to when working alone. Finally, when the focal and nonfocal animals worked jointly on the same test and the number of rewards accumulated was dependent on both animals’ continued ability to inhibit eating the items, chimpanzees performed the same when housed together or in adjacent enclosures. On the whole, the effects of social setting were modest, but these results may relate to the literature on vicarious depletion of self-control, and they present interesting avenues for future research.


This article was originally published in Scientifica and is reposted here with the permission of the authors. Copyright © 2012 Evans, et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.