Personality Structure and Social Style in Macaques

Mark James Adams, Majolo Bonaventura, Julia Ostner, Oliver Schulke, Arianna De Marco, Bernard Thierry, Antje Engelhardt, Anja Widdig, Melissa Gerald, Alexander Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why regularities in personality can be described with particular dimensions is a basic question in differential psychology. Nonhuman primates can also be characterized in terms of personality structure. Comparative approaches can help reveal phylogenetic constraints and social and ecological patterns associated with the presence or absence of specific personality dimensions. We sought to determine how different personality structures are related to interspecific variation in social style. Specifically, we examined this question in 6 different species of macaques, because macaque social style is well characterized and can be categorized on a spectrum of despotic (Grade 1) versus tolerant (Grade 4) social styles. We derived personality structures from adjectival ratings of Japanese (Macaca fuscata; Grade 1), Assamese (M. assamensis; Grade 2), Barbary (M. sylvanus; Grade 3), Tonkean (M. tonkeana; Grade 4), and crested (M. nigra; Grade 4) macaques and compared these species with rhesus macaques (M. mulatta; Grade 1) whose personality was previously characterized. Using a nonparametric method, fuzzy set analysis, to identify commonalities in personality dimensions across species, we found that all but 1 species exhibited consistently defined Friendliness and Openness dimensions, but that similarities in personality dimensions capturing aggression and social competence reflect similarities in social styles. These findings suggest that social and phylogenetic relationships contribute to the origin, maintenance, and diversification of personality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-353
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2015


  • personality
  • primate
  • evolution
  • behavior
  • macaques


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