Strong support is being provided by a new research for the universal existence of five personality dimensions in chimpanzees.
These are 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," lead author Hani Freeman, postdoctoral fellow with the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo, said.
"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 researcher said.
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," Freeman said.
"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," the researcher added.
To address the limitations of each approach and gain a better understanding of chimpanzee personality, the authors developed a new personality rating scale that incorporated the strengths of both types of scales.
This new scale consisted of 41 behavioral descriptors including boldness, jealousy, friendliness and stinginess amongst others.
Researchers suggest that one benefit to having the chimpanzees rated on the five core personality dimensions is that this information can now be used to make predictions that will help in their management, such as how individual chimpanzees will behave in various social situations.
This type of information will help zoos better anticipate certain behaviors from various individuals, and will assist them in providing individualized care.
The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.