Personality structure in brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella): comparisons with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), orangutans (Pongo spp.), and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

J Comp Psychol. 2013 Aug;127(3):282-98. doi: 10.1037/a0031723. Epub 2013 May 13.


Species comparisons of personality structure (i.e., how many personality dimensions and the characteristics of those dimensions) can facilitate questions about the adaptive function of personality in nonhuman primates. Here we investigate personality structure in the brown capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella), a New World primate species, and compare this structure to those of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), orangutans (Pongo spp.), and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Brown capuchins evolved behavioral and cognitive traits that are qualitatively similar to those of great apes, and individual differences in behavior and cognition often reflect differences in personality. Thus, we hypothesized that brown capuchin personality structure would overlap more with great apes than with rhesus macaques. We obtained personality ratings from seven sites, including 127 brown capuchin monkeys. Principal-components analysis identified five personality dimensions (Assertiveness, Openness, Neuroticism, Sociability, and Attentiveness), which were reliable across raters and, in a subset of subjects, significantly correlated with relevant behaviors up to a year later. Comparisons between species revealed that brown capuchins and great apes overlapped in personality structure, particularly chimpanzees in the case of Neuroticism. However, in some respects (i.e., capuchin Sociability and Openness) the similarities between capuchins and great apes were not significantly greater than those between capuchins and rhesus macaques. We discuss the relevance of our results to brown capuchin behavior and the evolution of personality structure in primates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cebus / psychology*
  • Female
  • Individuality
  • Macaca mulatta / psychology*
  • Male
  • Pan troglodytes / psychology*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality*
  • Pongo / psychology*