Humans Show More Impulsive Behavior than Chimpanzees During Adolescence

Chimpanzees Show Maturity in Risk Taking, Impulsivity Compared to Human Adolescents

Adolescent chimpanzees, who reach adolescence between the ages of 8 to 15, show different behavior when it comes to risk taking and impulsivity compared to human adolescents. A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General suggests although both chimpanzee and human adolescents undergo psychological changes, the former appear to show more maturity when it comes to taking risks and waiting patiently for rewards.

Lead researcher Alexandra Rosati and her team from the University of Michigan conducted two food reward trials with chimpanzees in a sanctuary in the Republic of Congo. In the first, adolescent and adult chimpanzees had to choose between two containers: one with peanuts, and the other with their favorite food, or a disliked one. The primates had to take a chance or be safe and go with the choice of peanuts.

For the second test, the researchers conducted the “marshmallow test” with chimpanzees. The primates could receive one slice of banana immediately or wait a minute and receive three. Adolescent chimpanzees and adults chose the larger delayed reward in a similar proportion while human adolescents usually chose the immediate reward.

The team noted that although adolescent chimpanzees were not happy waiting for the reward, they still had more patience compared to humans. Rosati said they already knew that chimpanzees have more patience compared to other animals, but this study shows their ability to delay gratification is already mature at an early age.

The research concluded that while risk-taking behavior appears to be biologically ingrained in both adolescent chimpanzees and humans, increased impulsive behavior may be more specific to human adolescents.

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