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Study: Chimps, Humans Share Similar Personality Traits

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Researchers find many similarities in the brains of chimpanzees and humans that develop nearly identical personality traits. (Photo: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Researchers find many similarities in the brains of chimpanzees and humans that develop nearly identical personality traits. (Photo: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – Humans and chimpanzees may be more alike than you ever thought, reports Live Science.

Researchers at Georgia State University found that not only do chimps express personality traits, those traits are very similar to humans traits.

Genetically, the chimpanzee is the closest relative to human beings, so it’s not surprising that they would share behavioral traits.

But this research suggests that the quirks we thought were exclusively human, like extroversion, agreeableness, grumpiness and other traits we might use to describe our friends and family are nearly identical to our chimp cousins.

“Our work demonstrates the promise of using chimpanzee models to investigate the neurobiology of personality processes,” said Robert Latzman, assistant professor of psychology at Georgia State University, who led the research team. “We know that these processes are associated with a variety of emotional health outcomes. We’re excited to continue investigating the links.”

The researchers used a sort of Myers-Briggs test called the Chimpanzee Personality Questionnaire. Caregivers are asked to rate chimps in 43 categories based on their observations of each animal’s daily behavior. Is the chimp excitable? Does it demonstrate impulsive tendencies? Is it playful or timid?

The scientists then analyzed 174 completed questionnaires from chimp caregivers at the Yerkes National Primate Center at Emory University.

What they found is that unlike humans, who can be categorized into five main personality types, chimps fell into one of two categories: they are either dominant “Alphas” or more sociable “Betas.”

But when they dug down into the observations, scientists found smaller traits did closely resemble the five main personaility traits of humans: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The chimps also showed a similar mix of traits, for example dominance, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and intellect.

So why are chimps so similar to us? The researchers say it’s because humans and chimps share a similar brain structure.

The chimpanzee traits were closely correlated with the function of a hormone called vasopressin, which regulates feelings of aggression and feelings of love and generosity.

Male chimps born with a common variant in the genes that control vasopressin were found to be more dominant and uninhibited, while females with this genetic variation tended to be less dominate and more inhibited.

The report is published in the journal PLOS ONE

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