Personality assessment in the Great Apes: Comparing ecologically valid behavior measures, behavior ratings, and adjective ratings

Authors: Jana Uher and Jens B. Asendorpf

Three methods of personality assessment (behavior measures, behavior ratings, adjective ratings) were compared in 20 zoo-housed Great Apes: bonobos (Pan paniscus), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), and orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus abelii). To test a new bottom-up approach, the studied trait constructs were systematically generated from the species’ behavioral repertoires. The assessments were reliable, temporally stable, and showed substantial cross-method coherence. In most traits, behavior ratings mediated the relations between adjective ratings and behavior measures. Results suggest that high predictability of manifest behavior is best achieved by behavior ratings, not by adjectives. Empirical evidence for trait constructs beyond current personality models points to the necessity of broad and systematic approaches for valid inferences on a species’ personality structure.