New research suggests apes have human-like personalities

May 28, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Common chimpanzee in the Leipzig Zoo. Image credit: Thomas Lersch, via Wikipedia.

(Phys.org) -- For as long as people have coexisted with other animals, they have debated amongst themselves whether some animals have some of the same personality traits as humans or if it’s just anthropomorphism at work. Many believe dogs, for example, have unique personalities, e.g. a cranky disposition, laziness, or even signs of neuroticism. More recently researchers have argued over whether apes, which of course are much closer to us in most ways, are able to feel the things we feel and whether they have different personalities between them, as we people do, and if so, if they are like ours.

Now new research by an international team of psychologists and animal research scientists may have settled the issue once and for all. In their paper published in the journal Animal Behavior, the team says that their study shows that yes, some do display different kinds of personality traits, and that chimpanzees in particular have some that are very nearly the same as us humans.

In addition to comparing personality traits in , researchers have of course also been studying in humans and over the years have come to a consensus that such traits can be boiled down to just five major dimensions, as they are called: agreeableness, openness to experience, extroversion, neuroticism and conscientiousness. All of us have different degrees of each which make up our general personality types. In this new research, the team used these same dimensions as a means to compare personalities between apes and to compare them to humans.

In their study, the team sent an extensive questionnaire to 230 volunteers at zoos and research centers in several countries. In it, respondents were asked to gauge forty or fifty personality “items” that were rated on a scale of one to seven. The “raters” as they were called, observed chimps and apes in action and then rated them as they saw fit. The results were then sent back to the research team who then applied statistical analyses to remove biases. Once that was done, the results showed that chimps appear to have all five personality dimensions, while orangutans seem to have just three.

This, the research team says, shows that really do have distinct , and more importantly, that they are very nearly the same as ours.

Explore further: Dolphins are attracted to magnets

More information: All too human? Chimpanzee and orang-utan personalities are not anthropomorphic projections, Animal Behaviour, In Press, DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.02.024

Abstract
Ratings of chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and orang-utan, Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo abelii, personality reveal dimensions resembling those found in humans. Critics have argued that this similarity derives from anthropomorphic projection or other rater-based effects. We developed two forms of data reduction analyses to determine whether these dimensions can best be explained by the inherent tendencies of the animals (e.g. orang-utans that are curious are playful) or anthropomorphic projections of raters (e.g. believing that orang-utans that are curious should be playful). We found that personality dimensions derived after differences between rater means and rater*item interactions had been removed from ratings replicated the previously discovered dimensions. Conversely, we found a different set of dimensions when analysing items from which differences between animal means and animal*item interactions had been removed. Finally, we used multilevel factor analysis to examine whether the published structure was replicated when we extracted factors based on the within-level animal differences in item scores effects while allowing between-rater differences to covary freely. Again, the personality dimensions were similar to those described in previous studies. These analyses can be used in combination with interrater reliability, temporal stability, and correlations between personality and other external variables to validate animal personality ratings. These analyses confirmed that personality similarities between humans and great apes are best explained by genetic and phylogenetic affinity and not by anthropomorphic artefacts.

Related Stories

Personality affects how likely we are to take our medication

May 10, 2011

The results of a unique study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, show that personality has an impact on how likely people are to take their medication. This is the first major study of its kind to be published in ...

Brain structure corresponds to personality

Jun 22, 2010

Personalities come in all kinds. Now psychological scientists have found that the size of different parts of people's brains correspond to their personalities; for example, conscientious people tend to have a bigger lateral ...

Researchers identify personality traits

Apr 03, 2009

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine's (BUSM) New England Centenarian Study have noted specific personality traits associated with healthy aging and longevity amongst the children of centenarians. The work ...

Evolution of animal personalities studied

Jun 05, 2007

A team of Dutch, German and Swedish scientists studying the evolution of animal personality has found animals differ strikingly in character and temperament.

Hope for those with a depressive disposition

Jan 30, 2012

Good news for the 13 per cent of the population with depressive personality traits: their negative outlook does not have to be permanent. This has been shown by psychologist Rachel Maddux in new research from Lund University ...

Recommended for you

Dolphins are attracted to magnets

20 hours ago

Dolphins are indeed sensitive to magnetic stimuli, as they behave differently when swimming near magnetized objects. So says Dorothee Kremers and her colleagues at Ethos unit of the Université de Rennes ...

User comments : 24

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
4.2 / 5 (15) May 28, 2012
Many believe dogs, for example, have unique personalities, e.g. a cranky disposition, laziness, or even signs of neuroticism.
First of all, this has been common knowledge with horsemen, dog breeders, and even the common farmer, for several thousand years. Anybody who has been exposed to more than one individual of the same race, knows this well.

Now new research by an international team of psychologists and animal research scientists may have settled the issue once and for all.
I don't think so. We're at a dozen years past the year 2000, and still the official stance goes "Many believe...". Such prevailing attitudes are *definitely* not changed "once and for all" simply by some researcher sending a few questionnaires to some zoo staff.

I really don't understan why the scientific community has such a hard time accepting that so many (if not even most) human traits are simply there because we are basically just another species -- nothing fancier than that.
epsi00
4.6 / 5 (14) May 28, 2012
Animals with personality? really? wow, what a surprise. I would like to know if these researchers have ever had a pet.
lonewolfmtnz
4.5 / 5 (17) May 28, 2012
"New Research Discovers That Humans Have Ape-like Personalities" (fixed)
Telekinetic
2.7 / 5 (7) May 28, 2012
One way apes, dogs and any number of species differ from humans is that they don't kill for sport.
Deadbolt
4.2 / 5 (5) May 28, 2012
I'm pretty heartless when it comes to animals, but I can't help but conclude that we shouldn't be keeping animals that want freedom in zoos or cages, especially not highly intelligent multi-faceted animals which have "human like personalities".

Actually, anything that gets bored and yearns to be free is cruel to confine for our purposes. I pity working dogs which get put in a cage outside and yelp all night. Imagine how chimps feel. They often try to escape, after all.

Chimps can also learn sign language to some degree, so it makes me wonder why no one has tried to ask the chimps how they feel about captivity.
Telekinetic
3.7 / 5 (6) May 28, 2012
"Chimps can also learn sign language to some degree, so it makes me wonder why no one has tried to ask the chimps how they feel about captivity."- Deadbolt

There was a piece a week or two ago on PhysOrg about a captive chimpanzee or orangutan that hid projectiles to later throw at onlookers. I think that expresses quite a bit.
Tewk
3.5 / 5 (8) May 28, 2012
One way apes, dogs and any number of species differ from humans is that they don't kill for sport.


Nonsense, feral dogs will kill a whole domesticated herd of animals, when even one of those killed would satisfy their appetite.

On what basis did you even make your statement ?
It sounds so Liberal cartoonish.

Geez I'm old enough to have seen the whole thing...how chimps and dolphins had the perfect societies...no violence...lots of free love and playing. THEY were the REAL humans !!! HAHAHAHA

Then we find out the truth. Yeah, what a $^**& bummer the truth is..what a drag !
Terriva
1 / 5 (4) May 28, 2012
Telekinetic
1.8 / 5 (5) May 28, 2012
"Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself."- James A. Froude

A bit more eloquent than my post, but the truth of it will be lost on you anyway, Pewk.
simplicio
5 / 5 (3) May 28, 2012
All animals have personality. It is a continuum and the 'higher' the animal, the more we see the personality because it is more complex, like ours.
dub1
1 / 5 (4) May 28, 2012
I've met enough humans with ape-like personas to question this study's existence. We are similar, not the same.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (6) May 28, 2012
Even mice have personalities.

All Libertarians however, are identical.

Odd isn't it?
dub1
2.3 / 5 (6) May 29, 2012
Vendicar is on his subhuman thread.
dub1
1 / 5 (3) May 29, 2012
I'm new/knew. You are simply that loud of an ass.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (5) May 29, 2012
I'm sure this has meaning to Dub1, just not to anyone else.

"Vendicar is on his subhuman thread." - Dub1

Perhaps it has meaning to a mouse, or a whale.

"I'm new/knew." - Dub1

Who new you were knew? Knot eye.

MarkyMark
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2012
I'm new/knew. You are simply that loud of an ass.

Dont. You meean to say

" i'm new/knew Alt.
Origin
2.3 / 5 (3) May 29, 2012
All animals have personality.
This doesn't explain, why your post was upwoted although it provides no evidence - whereas the Terriva's post (which just proves it by examples) was downvoted. Apparently, some people here A) don't like the logics B) or they don't like the Terriva C) or they don't like the evidence.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 29, 2012
To all those saying "Duh" to this article:

Maybe you should read the article first before commenting. Whether or not apes have personality was not part of the test.

The POINT here is to see whether the dimensionality of personality is similar between apes and humans. Central parts being:
We found that personality dimensions derived after differences between rater means and rater*item interactions had been removed from ratings replicated the previously discovered dimensions. Conversely, we found a different set of dimensions when analysing items from which differences between animal means and animal*item interactions had been removed.

and
These analyses confirmed that personality similarities between humans and great apes are best explained by genetic and phylogenetic affinity and not by anthropomorphic artefacts.

and
results showed that chimps appear to have all five personality dimensions, while orangutans seem to have just three.

Tewk
1 / 5 (2) May 29, 2012
"Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself."- James A. Froude
.


This simply is not true ! Heck don't you watch nature shows? One comes to mind immediately. The show was about the trouble that juvenile male elephants get into without an adult alpha male to keep them in line. (In this case most adult males had been killed for their tusks). The cameras follow a large young male elephant following and harassing a pair of adult rhinos (male/female). Clearly the elephant was in essence torturing the smaller animals. This wasn't for territorial reasons. It was also noted during the show that the elephant had indeed killed one of the rhinos later that day.
Heck anyone that has owned a cat can tell you about their nasty streak. I know animals have personalities.
And you and your James Froude are just plain wrong. I know for a fact you're wrong
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (3) May 29, 2012
". (In this case most adult males had been killed for their tusks)."

By who? Other elephants? And you know very well that picking a single example from a TV show as proof is meaningless. No species murders wantonly like Man, as the hundreds of millions of victims' graves will attest to.
Tewk
2.3 / 5 (3) May 29, 2012
". (In this case most adult males had been killed for their tusks)."

By who? Other elephants? And you know very well that picking a single example from a TV show as proof is meaningless. No species murders wantonly like Man, as the hundreds of millions of victims' graves will attest to.


Killed by poachers! Why would elephant kill another for its ivory ?
Geez, I think I waste my time here. You're one of the atheist correct ?
Telekinetic
2.3 / 5 (3) May 29, 2012
That's called a rhetorical question. And poachers are which species who kill for sport, or in this case, just for the ornamental value of ivory? It's my time you're wasting. Whether I'm an atheist or not is between me and my confessor.
DarkHorse66
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2012
"Chimps can also learn sign language to some degree, so it makes me wonder why no one has tried to ask the chimps how they feel about captivity."- Deadbolt

There was a piece a week or two ago on PhysOrg about a captive chimpanzee or orangutan that hid projectiles to later throw at onlookers. I think that expresses quite a bit.

Some of you might remember this one:
http://phys.org/n...nce.html
Cheers, DH66
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jun 03, 2012
If you are going to bring " personality dimensions " into it, then you mine as well bring up their culture as well, one springs from the other.

Different human cultures exhibit different types of personalities based on social and moral standards specific to that culture.

Eastern European women, for example, usually have no sense of humor :P