Personality in wild bonobos (Pan paniscus)

Cintia Garai, Alexander Weiss, Coline Arnaud, Takeshi Furuichi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To understand the evolution of personality structure requires examining personality dimensions in multiple species using a common set of traits. Little research has been conducted on personality in wild populations of nonhuman primates. Using behavioral observations and questionnaire ratings, we examined factors influencing personality in 16 wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) at Wamba, Luo Scientific Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo. We extracted five factors from 31 of the items from the Hominoid Personality Questionnaire (HPQ) and three factors from observed behaviors. The HPQ factors were labeled UnemotionalityQ, FriendlinessQ, AggressivenessQ, IrritabilityQ, and ActivityQ. The behavioral factors were labeled GroomingB, PlayfulnessB, and IntroversionB. We established the convergent and divergent validity of these factors by obtaining correlations between the HPQ and behavioral factors. We tested for sex differences and found that males were significantly higher on IntroversionB and significantly lower in IrritabilityQ. We then tested for age differences and found that FriendlinessQ was lower and AggressivenessQ was higher in older individuals. Finally, we found that, among males, hierarchical rank was associated with higher AggressivenessQ. These findings contrast with findings in chimpanzees in ways consistent with known species differences. For one, consistent with the more egalitarian structure of bonobo society, we did not identify a clear Dominance factor. Also, the results related to sex differences were consistent with previous findings that reveal closer bonds between female bonobos than female chimpanzees. These findings highlight the importance of studying personality in closely related species and the need to consider species’ socioecology when studying personality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1189
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number11
Early online date10 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


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