Research on primate personality and social relationships


Symposia on comparative differential and personality psychology 


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Symposia 2012

"Multidimensionality in animal individual differences research"
Symposium at the 16th European Conference on Personality (ECP 16) in Trieste, Italy, 10-14 July, 2012

Convenors: Jana Uher & John P. Capitanio
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany & University of California Davis, U.S.

In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin recognized the importance for research on individual differences in animals' characteristics, and the past decade has seen a substantial amount of work, both theoretical and empirical, done in this area. With some exceptions, however, work has typically focused on single dimensions of temperament/ personality in various animal species. This is now changing, and our symposium highlights the latest research that has taken a multi-dimensional approach to the study of individual differences in animals. Species studied by our distinguished speakers include rats, deer, fish, and monkeys, and the perspectives represented include neurobiology, wildlife biology, genetics, animal behaviour, and comparative differential psychology. Studies of individual differences in nonhumans from a multi-dimensional approach highlight both similarities and differences with humans in terms of the structure of personality differences, the neurobiological and genetic underpinnings, the adaptive significance, and the domain specificity or generality of personality dimensions. The discussant addresses some of these larger issues. The multidimensional perspective in animal individual differences research represents a major theoretical and empirical advance, and the perspectives, methods, and experimental control that animal researchers bring to this issue are likely to provide new insights to similar phenomena in humans. 

Our speakers are:
  • The multidimensional nature of animal personality
    Jaap M. Koolhaas
    (University Groningen, The Netherlands)
  • Personality and foraging consequences in fallow deer
    Ulrika Bergvall
    , Petter Kjellander, Alexander Schäpers, Madeleine Christiansen, Alexander Weiss (The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) 
  • Contingent influences on temperament in infant Rhesus monkeys
    John P. Capitanio
    , Erin Sullivan, Katherine Hinde (University of California, Davis, U.S.; Harvard University, U.S.)
  • Consistent individual differences in behavior in threespined sticklebacks (Casterosteus aculeatus)
    Alison M. Bell (Integrative Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, U.S.)
  • Taxonomic and typological analyses of individual differences in captive Crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis): Cross-method validation and 12-24 month stability
    Jana Uher, Christina S. Werner, Karlijn Gosselt (Freie Universität Berlin, German; University of Zurich, Switzerland, Utrecht University, The Netherlands )
  • The evolution of personality structure
    Marco del Giudice (University of Turin, Italy)

Past Symposia 

"The study of individual differences in animals – recent developments"
Symposium at the ISSID 2011, the biannual conference of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences, in London, UK, 25-28 July, 2011

Convenors: Jana Uher & Björn Forkman
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany & University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The study of individual differences in nonhuman animals is a rapidly growing field that made significant advances over the last decade. The symposium aims to highlight the potentials of comparative approaches that arise from the greater opportunities for naturalistic behaviour observation and experimental control in nonhuman species, from their more diverse neurological, behavioural, psychological, and social systems, and their greater variety in ecological adaptations and phylogenetic histories. Distinguished speakers from psychobiology, biology, and differential psychology provide an overview of recent developments. Molecular-genetic studies unravel how gene-environment interactions shape individual differences in the bio-behavioral development of monkeys. Longitudinal studies in wild birds explore patterns and mechanisms of the ontogenetic development and plasticity of personality differences in the context of their potential adaptivity and evolutionary function. The theoretical and practical consequences of individual differences in pigs and dogs, and methodological difficulties of their assessment in animal management are discussed with a special focus on their relevance for animal welfare. The peculiarities of comparative research, especially the diversity among nonhuman species and their lack of self-reports necessitate the development of new meta-theoretical and methodological approaches that also help to critically re-evaluate and extend traditional research approaches to individual differences in humans.

Our speakers are:
  • Gene-environment interactions shape individual differences in Rhesus monkey bio-behavioral development
    Stephen J. Suomi
    (Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, U.S.)
  • Development of animal personalities: Some concepts and findings
    Ton G.G. Groothuis
    (Institute for Behaviour and Neuroscience, University of Groningen, The Netherlands) & Claudio Carere (Department of Ecology and Sustainable Development, University of Tuscia, Italy)
  • Personality differences in dogs
    Björn Forkman
    (Department of Large Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Investigating aggressive temperament in pigs
    Richard B. D'Eath (Scottish Agricultural College, United Kingdom)
  • A non-lexical taxonomic approach to individual differences in humans and nonhuman animals
    Jana Uher (Department of Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)


"How to study personality differences in nonhuman primates"
Symposium at the XXIII Congress of the International Primatological Society IPS) in Kyoto, Japan, 12-18 September, 2010

Convenors: Jana Uher & Alexander Weiss
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany & The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Individual differences that are commonly construed as personality differences are increasingly studied in prosimians, old and new world monkeys, and apes. Primatologists thereby focus on the psychobiological mechanisms, ontogenetic processes, adaptive advantages, and phylogenetic origins of individual differences within and between species. Yet meta-theoretical and methodological foundations of their primary empirical investigation are still not well established. What do we understand by personality differences at all? What methods are suitable to study them empirically in nonhuman primates? And how can personality differences be analyzed statistically? This symposium provides an overview about basic meta-theoretical concepts of personality, and different methodological approaches and methods of measurement. Participants present a meta-analysis of methods of personality measurement used in primate studies. Ethological quantifications of personality differences are demonstrated in zoo populations of chimpanzees. The utility of observer ratings and their power to explain patterns of friendship are shown in captive rhesus macaques. A longitudinal study in zoo populations of gorillas demonstrates the utility of observer ratings of personality differences for captive management. Particularly illuminating, yet also methodologically challenging are personality studies on wild populations. A study in Japanese macaques demonstrates some of these challenges and discusses interesting opportunities to validate personality differences with life-history traits. We close with a presentation of factor analytic methods to statistically identify basic dimensions of individual differences in empirical data. 

Our speakers are:
  • Meta-theoretical and methodological foundations of primate personality research - An overview
    Jana Uher (Department of Educatonal Science and Psychology, Free University Berlin, Germany)
  • A review and meta-analysis of personality studies in non-human primates
    Hani Freeman (University of Texas at Austin, U.S.)
  • Chimpanzee personality assessed by an observational quantification of their behaviour in three zoos
    Sonja Koski, Elisabeth Sterck, William McGrew (University of Cambridge, U.K. and Utrecht University, The Netherlands)
  • Measuring individual differences in temperament and friendship in Rhesus monkeys
    Tamara Weinstein (Simpson College, Indianola, U.S.)
  • Longitudinal assessments of gorilla personality and their role in captive management
    Tara Stoinski, Christopher Kuhar, Kristen Lukas, Bonnie Perdue, Ken Gold (Conservation Partnerships Zoo Atlanta and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, U.S.)
  • Validating personality with life-history traits
    Mark James Adams (Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, U.K.)
  • Factor analytic techniques for disentangling primate personality and rater perceptions
    Alexander Weiss (Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, U.K.)

"Vergleichende Psychologie - Neue Implikationen für die Humanforschung"
Symposium at the 47. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie (DGPs) in Bremen, Germany, 26-30 September, 2010

Convenors: Jana Uher & Katja Liebal
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Die Vergleichende Psychologie befasst sich mit den Übereinstimmungen und Verschiedenheiten im Verhalten von Menschen und Tieren. Durch die enorme Diversität nichtmenschlicher Spezies können dabei weitreichende Erkenntnisse in verschiedensten Forschungsgebieten gewonnen werden, z.B. in der Kognitions-, Kommunikations-, Evolutions-, Entwicklungs- und neuropsychologischen Forschung. Mit den berühmten Schimpansenstudien Wolfgang Köhlers in der Forschungsstation der Preußischen Wissenschaftsakademie hat die Vergleichende Psychologie starke Wurzeln auch im deutschsprachigen Forschungsgebiet. Doch ungeachtet dessen und trotz bedeutender internationaler Entwicklungen im letzten Jahrzehnt konnte sich die Vergleichende Psychologie bisher (noch) nicht in der deutschsprachigen Psychologie etablieren, wie u.a. im Fehlen einer DGPs-Fachgruppe deutlich wird. Aber auch hier gibt es international renommierte Forschung, von der wir in diesem Symposium einige bedeutende Forschungslinien vorstellen möchten, um die vielfältigen Anknüpfungspunkte mit der Humanforschung aufzuzeigen. Nach einer kurzen Einleitung stellen wir in fünf Beiträgen erstaunliche Forschungsergebnisse zur vergleichenden Kognitionsforschung bei nichtmenschlichen Primaten, Vögeln und verschiedenen menschlichen Kulturen sowie zur vokalen und taktil-visuellen Kommunikationsforschung vor, die tiefgreifende Erkenntnisse zur Evolution der kognitiven und sprachlichen Fähigkeiten des Menschen ermöglichen. 

Our speakers are:
  • Clever ohne Großhirnrinde - die konvergente Evolution komplexer kognitiver Leistungen
    Helmut Prior
    (Allgemeine Psychologie, Kognitionsforschung, Institut für Psychologie, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
  • Zum Einfluss der Persönlichkeit von Hund und Halter auf ihre soziale Interaktion
    Kurt Kotrschal (Verhaltensbiologie, Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle, Universität Wien)
  • Das Erwachen der Intelligenz beim Affen
    Julia Fischer
    (Kognitive Ethologie, Deutsches Primatenzentrum Göttingen - Leibniz Institut für Primatenforschung)
  • Kognition im Art- und Kulturvergleich
    Daniel Haun (Vergleichende und Entwicklungspsychologie, Max-Planck-Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie, Leipzig)
  • Ohne Worte - Gestische Kommunikation von Menschenaffen
    Katja Liebal (Evolutionäre Psychologie, Freie Universität Berlin)

"Cross-species Perspectives on Differential and Personality Research"
Invited Symposium at the 15th European Conference on Personality (ECP 15) in Brno, Czech Republic, 20-24 July, 2010

Convenors: Jana Uher & Mark James Adams
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany & The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Differential and personality research in nonhuman species is a rapidly growing field that made significant advances over the last decade-largely unnoticed by psychologists, however. The symposium aims to highlight the potentials of cross-species perspectives that arise from the greater opportunities for naturalistic behaviour observation and experimental control in nonhuman species, from their more diverse neurological, behavioural, psychological, and social systems, and their greater variety in ecological adaptations and phylogenetic histories. Distinguished speakers present their work on a 40-year breeding experiment for single behavioural traits in farm foxes, factorial analyses of temperamental differences in mice studied in behavioural tests, ambulatory monitoring of individual differences in physiological and hormonal responses to different situations in geese, the utility of behavioural test and trait ratings as breeding selection tools in dogs, evolutionary patterns in primate personality differences, and meta-theoretical and methodological approaches to species-comprehensive differential and personality research. These studies illustrate the potential of comparative approaches for systematic explorations of psychobiological mechanisms and evolutionary principles that contribute to personality differences in human and nonhuman species. The particularities of nonhuman species also necessitate new meta-theoretical and methodological developments that can help to critically re-evaluate and extend research approaches of traditional differential and personality psychology. 

Our speakers are:
  • Genetics of social interspecific behavior (fox-human interaction) in the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes
    Anna Kukekova
    & Lyudmilla Trut (Center for Canine Genetics and Reproduction, James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University, United States and Institute of Cytology and Genetics of Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia)
  • Temperamental traits in mice (Mus musculus)
    Jorge Moya-Higueras, Manuel I. Ibáñez, & Generós Ortet
    (Department of Basic and Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, Universitat Jaume I, Castelló de la Plana, Spain)
  • Personality differences in Greylag geese (Anser anser) – species-specific or vertebrate universal?
    Simona Kralj-Fišer & Kurt Kotrschal (Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia & Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Vienna, Konrad Lorenz Research Station, Austria)
  • Personalities in dogs (Canis familiaris): Methods and results 
    Björn Forkman (Division Ethology, Department of Large Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Building blocks of primate personality: Evolutionary patterns and developmental integration 
    Mark James Adams (Department of Psychology, Differential and Health Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • Methodological approaches in differential and personality research: New insights from a cross-species comparative perspective 
    Jana Uher (Department of Psychology, Differential and Personality Psychology, Diagnostics and Intervention, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)


"Multidisciplinary Advances in Animal Personality Research"
Invited Symposium at the 14th European Conference on Personality (ECP 14) in Tartu, Estonia, July 16-20th, 2008. 

Convenors: Kees van Oers & Jana Uher 
NIOO-KNAW, Heteren, The Netherlands & Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. 

Personality research in nonhuman species has made significant advances over the last decade. Diverse disciplines are exploiting the unique possibilities of comparative personality research to gain profound insights into the nature and origins of personality. Greater opportunities for naturalistic behavioural observations and experimental control, mostly shorter reproduction cycles and life spans, and differences in phylogenies, ecologies and social systems predistine nonhuman species for systematic studies on the evolutionary, genetic, biological and social bases of personality. Distinguished speakers from different disciplines present recent advances made in the field that reveal multi-faceted and complex perspectives on personality. Fundamental genetic, ontogenetic and evolutionary principles underlying stable intraspecies behavioural variation are discussed within integrative frameworks. Processes mediating interactions between genetic and environmental factors that account for developmental plasticity are shown in avian and mammalian species. Personality- and relationship-dependent optima of stimulation and arousal modulation are important components of social compatibility in chimpanzees that also affect their psycho-social health. Relations between personality differences and performance in explosive detection dogs indicate applied aspects of nonhuman personality research. The diversity of behavioural variation within and across species requires suitable methodologies to identify and study trait dimensions of individual and species differences; their reliability and validity is demonstrated empirically in great apes and macaques. The empirical, theoretical and methodological advances made in nonhuman personality research have also interesting implications for human personality research. Integrating approaches and findings across research disciplines and species can stimulate critical reconsideration of theories, concepts and methodologies and open up new perspectives on personality. 

Our speakers are:

  • Physiological and Evolutionary Model of Avian Personality: The Great Tit Story
    Pieter Drent (Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), The Netherlands)
  • Ontogenetic Modulation and (Some) Neuro-Endocrine Correlates
    Claudio Carere (Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy)
  • Personality and Inter-Individual Attunement in Ex-Lab Chimpanzees
    Signe Preuschoft (Anthropologisches Institut & Museum, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Switzerland)
  • Personality and Performance in Working Dogs
    Samuel Gosling (University of Texas, USA), S. J. Hilliard (341st Training Squadron, USA), Oliver P. John (University of California at Berkeley, USA), V. S. Y. Kwan (Princeton University, USA), S. J. Schapiro, M. D. (Anderson Cancer Center, USA), Simine Vazire (Washington University St. Louis, USA
  • Methodologies in Comparative Personality Research
    Jana Uher (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)
  • Introduction and Discussion: Animal Personality Research Across Disciplines
    Kees van Oers (Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), The Netherlands)