Sussing Out Simians: Humans Can Accurately Size Up a Chimp’s Personality after Viewing Its Face (Study, Scientific American Mind)

“A new study suggests that humans and their nearest evolutionary cousins not only transmit personality traits via their facial characteristics, but that people can pick up on these cues from both species”

“In four experiments scientists asked university students to look at chimp faces. […] People typically accurately identified “dominant” and “active” personalities correctly, and nearly correctly guessed “sympathetic” ones to a significant degree. […]

In a second experiment Ward and his collaborators had 30 different students rate the chimp faces on a seven-point scale on the four traits identified in the first experiment — dominant, active, sociable and sympathetic. After comparing these results with the personality ratings scientists previously had of the chimpanzees, the researchers found a significant number of the volunteers were able to accurately guess how dominant the apes were.

A third experiment supported these results — 30 more students were shown pairs of chimp faces, each of a different chimpanzee of the same sex, and they typically correctly identified the more dominant ape, proving more accurate with male chimps than females. Dominance, as the scientists described it to volunteers, involved being more able to displace, threaten or take food from others —or more likely to show their high status by decisively intervening in social interactions.

In the last experiment the scientists investigated how well volunteers were able to assess both the dominance of chimps as well as how extroverted a human might be. (In humans psychologists typically consider dominance an extroverted or outgoing personality trait.)”

Robin S.S. Kramer, James E. King, Robert Ward.
Identifying personality from the static, nonexpressive face in humans and chimpanzees: evidence of a shared system for signaling personality. Evolution & Human Behavior. Published online 18 January 2011.
DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.10.005

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