Chimps and Orangutans Have Personalities Too
Our similarities with apes may be more than just a common ancestor and a large percentage of our DNA. A recent study has shown that chimpanzees and orangutans exhibit personalities, just like humans.
"[Chimpanzees] have the same social problems that we do, they want to make friends and find mates and sort of gain position within their society," says research team member Mark Adams to BBC Nature.
Human personalities are usually categorized into five main "dimensions." Referred to as "the big five" by Alexander Weiss who contributed to the study, they are: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
Like Us on Facebook
It turns out chimpanzees exhibit all five of these basic human characteristics. Orangutans, meanwhile, show signs of only three: extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness.
The reason for the difference between how similar we are to chimpanzees and orangutans most likely lies in our ancestry. Chimps and humans share a common ancestor around four to six million years ago. Orangutans and humans on the other hand, share one around fifteen million years ago.
The study also tried to take into account the biggest flaw it might have: those conducting it.
"Human beings have a very natural tendency to project human agency into almost anything that moves," says Dr. Clive Wynne while speaking to BBC Nature.
This attribution of human characteristics onto anything non-human is called anthropomorphism. In literature, it can be called personification.
To counter the claims that the study might be inherently biased, the research team attempted to use statistics to eliminate the biases.
"There's sort of a fear that human observers and 'raters' are projecting their own ideas about personality on to these animals," according to Mark Adams.
The research team sent out 230 questionnaires to people who were observing chimpanzees and orangutans around the world. These included research centers in the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
The questionnaire asked the researchers to use a one-to-seven point scale to rate around 40-50 different personality characteristics. The results were then analyzed using statistics and determined whether or not the people observing these animals were demonstrating anthropomorphism.
"What we found is that controlling for these differences among observers made no difference, which suggests that the observers are not projecting their own ideas about personality onto the animals."
The method paves way for more observation of personalities in the while. For instance, the bold fish gets hooked, and the aggressive male usually wins the mate.