While psychologists have long debated the core personality dimensions that define humanity, primate researchers have been working to uncover the defining personality traits for humankind's closest living relative, the chimpanzee. New research, published in the June 3 issue of American Journal of Primatology provides strong support for the universal existence of five personality dimensions in chimpanzees: reactivity/undependability, dominance, openness, extraversion and agreeableness with a possible sixth factor, methodical, needing further investigation.
"Understanding chimpanzee personality has important theoretical and practical implications," explained lead author Hani Freeman, postdoctoral fellow with the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo. "From an academic standpoint, the findings can inform investigations into the evolution of personality. From a practical standpoint, caretakers of chimpanzees living in zoos or elsewhere can now tailor individualized care based on each animal's personality thereby improving animal welfare."
The study of chimpanzee personality is not novel; however, according to the authors, previous instruments designed to measure personality left a number of vital questions unanswered.
"Some personality scales used for chimpanzees were originally designed for another species. These 'top-down' approaches are susceptible to including traits that are not relevant for chimps, or fail to include all the relevant aspects of chimpanzee personality," explained Freeman. "Another tactic, called a 'bottom-up' approach, derives traits specifically for chimpanzees without taking into account information from previous scales. This approach also has limitations as it impedes comparisons with findings in other studies and other species, which is essential if you want to use research on chimpanzees to better understand the evolution of human personality traits."
|Contact: Sharon Dewar|
Lincoln Park Zoo