How to spend a token? Trade-offs between food variety and food preference in tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella).

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Humans and non-human animals often choose among different alternatives by seeking variety. Here we assessed whether variety-seeking, i.e. the tendency to look for diversity in services and goods, occurs in capuchin monkeys--South-American primates which--as humans--are omnivorous and susceptible to food monotony. Capuchins chose between a Variety-token, that allowed to select one among 10 different foods (one more-preferred and nine less-preferred) and a Monotony-token, that--upon exchange with the experimenter--either allowed to select one among 10 units of the same more-preferred food or gave access to one unit of the more-preferred food. To examine how food preference affects variety-seeking, in the B-condition we presented nine moderately preferred foods, whereas in the C-condition we presented nine low-preferred foods. Overall, capuchins preferred the Variety-token over the Monotony-token and often selected one of the less-preferred foods. These results suggest that variety-seeking is rooted in our evolutionary history, and that it satisfies the need of experiencing stimulation from the environment; at the ultimate level, variety-seeking may allow the organism to exploit novel foods and obtain a correct nutritional intake. Finally, variety-seeking could have contributed to the transition from barter to money in many human cultures.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Addessi, E; Mancini, A; Crescimbene, L; Ariely, D; Visalberghi, E

Published Date

  • March 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 83 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 267 - 275

PubMed ID

  • 20026196

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1872-8308

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0376-6357

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.12.012


  • eng