We humans can often assume that what sets us apart from animals is our regal ability to possess self-control and resist temptation to achieve what is good for us. But turns out we're not as above it all as we'd like to think. (Or at the very least, we have a fair amount of company above it all.)
Studies conducted on chimps have shown that they can delay reaching for a serving of sweets placed in front of them. They also found that chimps would use toys, pictures or objects to distract them from reaching -- just like a human who flips through a magazine to sidetrack himself from that last slice of cake in the kitchen, perhaps? Dogs have also demonstrated that their self-control functions in a similar way to humans; specifically that glucose helps them exert self-control.
So the next time you're taking Fido for a restrained walk -- or watching voles parent together or getting the stink-eye from a crow -- remember that their behavior might be instinctual or primitive, but it sure isn't solely "animal."
Author's Note: 10 Surprising Behaviors in Nonhuman Animals
I guess it doesn't shock me that animals are capable of more sophisticated behaviors than eat-mate-sleep. But more than once writing this article, I gasped out loud when reading. To think that crows were actually recruited at one point to help find and identify Osama bin Laden [source: Chittim]? Or that elephants touch their tusks to the corpse of a comrade in what can be seen as a show of mourning? It's hard not to be surprised -- and occasionally straight-up impressed -- with the sophistication of our animal pals.
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The two words mean very different things and are often used incorrectly. We'll clear up the confusion.