Personality in the behaviour of great apes - temporal stability, cross-situational consistency

Authors: Jana Uher, Jens B. Asendorpf and Josep Call

Abstract
Using a multidisciplinary approach, the present study complements ethological behaviour measurements with basic theoretical concepts, methods and approaches of the personality psychological trait paradigm. Its adoptability and usefulness for animal studies is tested exemplarily on a sample of 20 zoo-housed great apes (five of each of the following species): bonobos, Pan paniscus; chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus; gorillas, Gorilla gorilla gorilla; and orang-utans, Pongo pygmaeus abelii. Data on 76 single trait-relevant behaviours were recorded in a series of 14 laboratory based situations and in two different group situations. Data collection was repeated completely after a break of two weeks within a 50-day period. All behaviour records were sufficiently reliable. Individual- and variable-oriented analyses showed high/substantial temporal stability on different levels of aggregation. Distinctive and stable individual situational and response profiles clarified the importance of situations and of multiple trait-relevant behaviours. The present study calls for a closer collaboration between personality psychologists and behavioural biologists to tap the full potential of animal personality research.