Behavior Genetics

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 675–686 | Cite as

The Majority of Genetic Variation in Orangutan Personality and Subjective Well-Being is Nonadditive

  • Mark James Adams
  • James E. King
  • Alexander Weiss
Original Research


The heritability of human personality is well-established. Recent research indicates that nonadditive genetic effects, such as dominance and epistasis, play a large role in personality variation. One possible explanation for the latter finding is that there has been recent selection on human personality. To test this possibility, we estimated additive and nonadditive genetic variance in personality and subjective well-being of zoo-housed orangutans. More than half of the genetic variance in these traits could be attributed to nonadditive genetic effects, modeled as dominance. Subjective well-being had genetic overlap with personality, though less so than has been found in humans or chimpanzees. Since a large portion of nonadditive genetic variance in personality is not unique to humans, the nonadditivity of human personality is not sufficient evidence for recent selection of personality in humans. Nonadditive genetic variance may be a general feature of the genetic structure of personality in primates and other animals.


Heritability Dominance genetic variance Animal model Nonhuman primate Evolutionary psychology Happiness 



We thank Jarrod Hadfield for useful advice about genetic modeling and the personnel at the zoos for rating the orangutans. This work has made use of the resources provided by the Edinburgh Compute and Data Facility (ECDF).


  1. Bartels M, Boomsma DI (2009) Born to be happy? The etiology of subjective well-being. Behav Genet 39(6):605–615PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bouchard TJ, Loehlin JC (2001) Genes, evolution, and personality. Behav Genet 31:243–273PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Capitanio JP (1999) Personality dimensions in adult male rhesus macaques: prediction of behaviors across time and situation. Am J Primatol 47(4):299–320PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caprara GV, Fagnani C, Alessandri G, Steca P, Gigantesco A, Cavalli-Sforza LL, Stazi MA (2009) Human optimal functioning: the genetics of positive orientation towards self, life, and the future. Behav Genet 39(3):277–284PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Crnokrak P, Roff DA (1995) Dominance variance: associations with selection and fitness. Heredity 75(5):530–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeNeve KM, Cooper H (1998) The happy personality: a meta-analysis of 137 personality traits and subjective well-being. Psychol Bull 124(2):197–229PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener E, Chan MY (2011) Happy people live longer: subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Appl Psychol 3(1):1–43Google Scholar
  8. Diener E, Suh EM, Lucas RE, Smith HL (1999) Subjective well-being: three decades of progress. Psychol Bull 125(2):276–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Digman JM (1990) Personality structure: emergence of the Five-Factor Model. Annu Rev Psychol 41(1):417–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eaves LJ, Last KA, Young PA, Martin NG (1978) Model-fitting approaches to the analysis of human behaviour. Heredity 41(3):249–320PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eaves LJ, Heath AC, Neale MC, Hewitt JK, Martin NG (1998) Sex differences and nonadditivity in the effects of genes on personality. Twin Res 1(3):131–137PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Figueredo AJ, Rushton JP (2009) Evidence for shared genetic dominance between the general factor of personality, mental and physical health, and life history traits. Twin Res Hum Genet 12:555–563PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Figueredo AJ, Wolf PSA, Gladden PR, Olderbak SG, Andrzejczak DJ, Jacobs WJ (2011) Ecological approaches to personality. In: Buss DM, Hawley PH (eds) The evolution of personality and individual differences. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 210–242Google Scholar
  14. Freeman HD, Gosling SD (2010) Personality in nonhuman primates: a review and evaluation of past research. Am J Primatol 72(8):653–671PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Galdikas BMF (1985) Adult male sociality and reproductive tactics among orangutans at Tanjung Puting. Folia Primatol 45(1):9–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gangestad SW (2011) Evolutionary processes explaining the genetic variation in personality: an exploration of scenarios. In: Buss DM, Hawley PH (eds) The evolution of personality and individual differences. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 338–375Google Scholar
  17. Goodall J (1986) The chimpanzees of Gombe: patterns of behavior. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  18. Gosling SD, Graybeal A (2007) Tree Thinking: a new paradigm for integrating comparative data in psychology. J Gen Psychol 134:259–277PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hadfield JD (2010) MCMC methods for multi-response generalized linear mixed models: the MCMCglmm R package. J Stat Softw 33(2):1–22Google Scholar
  20. Hadfield JD, Nakagawa S (2010) General quantitative genetic methods for comparative biology: phylogenies, taxonomies and multi-trait models for continuous and categorical characters. J Evol Biol 23(3):494–508PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hansen TF, Houle D (2008) Measuring and comparing evolvability and constraint in multivariate characters. J Evol Biol 21(5):1201–1219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hobolth A, Christensen OF, Mailund T, Schierup MH (2007) Genomic relationships and speciation times of human, chimpanzee, and gorilla inferred from a coalescent hidden Markov model. PLoS Genet 30:294–304Google Scholar
  23. Keller MC (2007) Standards of evidence in the nascent field of evolutionary behavioural genetics. Eur J Pers 21:608–610Google Scholar
  24. Keller MC, Coventry WM, Heath AC, Martin NG (2005) Widespread evidence for non-additive genetic variation in Cloninger’s and Eysenck’s personality dimensions using a twin plus sibling design. Behav Genet 35:707–721PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. King JE, Figueredo AJ (1997) The Five-Factor Model plus dominance in chimpanzee personality. J Res Pers 31(2):257–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King JE, Landau VI (2003) Can chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) happiness be estimated by human raters? J Res Pers 37(1):1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. King JE, Weiss A, Farmer KH (2005) A chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) analogue of cross-national generalization of personality structure: zoological parks and an African sanctuary. J Res Pers 73:389–410Google Scholar
  28. King JE, Weiss A, Sisco MM (2008) Aping humans: age and sex effects in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and human (Homo sapiens) personality. J Comp Psychol 122:418–427PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Konečná M, Lhota S, Weiss A, Urbánek T, Adamová T, Pluháček J (2008) Personality in free-ranging Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus) males: subjective ratings and recorded behavior. J Comp Psychol 122:379–389PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kruuk LEB (2004) Estimating genetic parameters in natural populations using the “animal model”. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 359(1446):873–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lykken D, Tellegen A (1996) Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon. Psychol Sci 7(3):186–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lynch M, Walsh B (1998) Genetics and analysis of quantitative traits. Sinauer, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  33. Lyubomirsky S, King L, Diener E (2005) The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychol Bull 131(6):803–855PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Merilä J, Sheldon BC (1999) Genetic architecture of fitness and nonfitness traits: empirical patterns and development of ideas. Heredity 83(2):103–109PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nes RB, Røysamb E, Tambs K, Harris JR, Reichborn-Kjennerud T (2006) Subjective well-being: genetic and environmental contributions to stability and change. Psychol Med 36(7):1033–1042PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nes RB, Czajkowski N, Tambs K (2010) Family matters: happiness in nuclear families and twins. Behav Genet 40(5):577–590PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ovaskainen O, Cano JM, Merilä J (2008) A Bayesian framework for comparative quantitative genetics. Proc Biol Sci 275(1635):669–678PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pederson AK, King JE, Landau VI (2005) Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) personality predicts behavior. J Res Pers 39(5):534–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Penke L, Denissen JJ, Miller GF (2007) The evolutionary genetics of personality. Eur J Pers 21(5):549–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pilia G, Chen W-M, Scuteri A, Orrú M, Albai G, Dei M, Lai S, Usala G, Lai M, Loi P, Mameli C, Vacca L, Deiana M, Olla N, Masala M, Cao A, Najjar SS, Terracciano A, Nedorezov T, Sharov A, Zonderman AB, Abecasis GR, Costa P, Lakatta E, Schlessinger D (2006) Heritability of cardiovascular and personality traits in 6,148 Sardinians. PLoS Genet 2:e132PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Purvis A (1995) A composite estimate of primate phylogeny. Phil Trans R Soc B 348:405–421PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shrout PE, Fleiss JL (1979) Intraclass correlations: uses in assessing rater reliability. Psychol Bull 86:420–428PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sorensen D, Gianola D (2002) Likelihood, Bayesian, and MCMC methods in quantitative genetics. Springer, LondonGoogle Scholar
  44. Srivastava S (2010) The Five-Factor Model describes the structure of social perceptions. Psychol Inq 21(1):69–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stearns SC, Byars SG, Govindaraju DR, Ewbank D (2010) Measuring selection in contemporary human populations. Nat Rev Genet 11(9):611–622PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Steel P, Schmidt J, Shultz J (2008) Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being. Psychol Bull 134:138–161PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stevenson-Hinde J, Stillwell-Barnes R, Zunz M (1980) Subjective assessment of rhesus monkeys over four successive years. Primates 21(1):66–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stirling DG, Réale D, Roff DA (2002) Selection, structure and the heritability of behaviour. J Evol Biol 15(2):277–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Uher J (2008a) Comparative personality research: methodological approaches. J Res Pers 22:427–455Google Scholar
  50. Uher J (2008b) Three methodological core issues of comparative personality research. Eur J Pers 22(5):475–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Uher J, Asendorpf JB (2008) Personality assessment in the Great Apes: comparing ecologically valid behavior measures, behavior ratings, and adjective ratings. J Res Pers 42(4):821–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. van Oers K, Drent PJ, de Jong G, van Noordwijk AJ (2004) Additive and nonadditive genetic variation in avian personality traits. Heredity 93(5):496–503PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Weiss A, Adams MJ (2008) Species of nonhuman personality assessment. Euro J Pers 22:472–474Google Scholar
  54. Weiss A, Inoue-Murayama M, King JE, Adams MJ, Matsuzawa T (2012) All too human? Chimpanzee and orang-utan personalities are not anthropomorphic projections. Anim Behav (in press)Google Scholar
  55. Weiss A, King JE, Figueredo AJ (2000) The heritability of personality factors in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Behav Genet 30:213–221PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Weiss A, King JE, Enns RM (2002) Subjective well-being is heritable and genetically correlated with Dominance in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Pers Soc Psychol 83(5):1141–1149PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Weiss A, King JE, Perkins L (2006) Personality and subjective well-being in orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo abelii). J Pers Soc Psychol 90(3):501–511PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Weiss A, King JE, Hopkins WD (2007) A cross-setting study of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) personality structure and development: zoological parks and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Am J Primatol 69(11):1264–1277PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Weiss A, Bates TC, Luciano M (2008) Happiness is a personal(ity) thing: the genetics of personality and well-being in a representative sample. Psychol Sci 19(3):205–210PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Weiss A, Inoue-Murayama M, Hong KW, Inoue E, Udono T, Ochiai T, Matsuzawa T, Hirata S, King JE (2009) Assessing chimpanzee personality and subjective well-being in Japan. Am J Primatol 71(4):283–292PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Weiss A, Adams MJ, King JE (2011a) Happy orang-utans live longer lives. Biol Lett 7:872–874PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Weiss A, Adams MJ, Widdig A, Gerald MS (2011b) Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) as living fossils of hominoid personality and subjective well-being. J Comp Psychol 125:72–83PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wilson AJ, Réale D, Clements MN, Morrissey MM, Postma E, Walling CA, Kruuk LEB, Nussey DH (2009) An ecologist’s guide to the animal model. J Anim Ecol 79(1):13–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark James Adams
    • 1
    • 2
  • James E. King
    • 3
  • Alexander Weiss
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language SciencesThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Scottish Primate Research GroupScotlandUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations