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Studying psychopathic chimps can shed light on the human variety

09 August 2017

To understand the drivers of a psychopathic personality (marked by callousness, disinhibition and superficial charm), it’s worth looking at our closest relatives.

Some chimps, like some people, score highly on scales designed to evaluate psychopathic tendencies. And new work in Frontiers in Neuroscience reveals a potentially important genetic contributor to psychopathic traits in chimps, which could lead to a better understanding of the traits in people.

The team led by Robert Latzman at Georgia State University studied 164 chimpanzees housed at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia and the National Center for Chimpanzee Care at the University of Texas.

Each chimpanzee was rated by typically two to three colony staff members, who knew the individual animals, on the “CHMP-Tri scales” (a kind of chimp personality questionnaire that assesses their boldness, meanness and disinhibition – the three traits that form the so-called “triarchic model” of psychopathy). They also sequenced the AVPR1A regions of the chimps’ genomes.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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