New Research Suggests Apes Have Human-like Personalities_Featured_, Animals, Pets, Wildlife, Consciousness Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
(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 apes 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 animals, researchers have of course also been studying personality traits 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 chimpanzees really do have distinct personalities, and more importantly, that they are very nearly the same as ours.