Early experimental psychologists made broad use of knowledge that is undoubtedly as old as animal domestication, i.e., that the power of appetitive reinforcement is enhanced by restricting the subjects' access to food. This has led to the nearly universal practice of restricting common laboratory rodent and avian subjects to 85% of free-feeding weight for operant experiments. Appetitive operant procedures in nonhuman primates (NHPs) vary more widely, in part because of the time required for such animals to reach mature weight and greater individual variability in body size compared with inbred laboratory species. In addition, many NHPs will grow obese under true ad-libitum feeding. Therefore, food restriction protocols for monkeys tend to be highly individualized and conducted on the basis of laboratory experience within a given model. The present study was undertaken to determine to what extent short-term, ad-libitum food consumption in rhesus macaques would impair performance on an established neuropsychological testing battery. A second part of the study was to formalize food-restriction parameters to determine what degree of restriction was required to produce consistent behavioral performance. Results show clearly that behavioral performance on a range of tasks is detrimentally affected by short-term, ad-libitum chow feeding, even when the reinforcer is highly preferred or the tasks are well trained. Furthermore, it is shown that maintenance of weekly chow intake in the range of 70-85% of National Research Council recommendations for metabolizable energy is necessary for consistent behavioral responding.