Individual differences in zoo-housed squirrel monkeys' (Saimiri sciureus) reactions to visitors, research participation and personality ratings

Z Polgar, L Wood*, MJ Haskell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding individual differences in captive squirrel monkeys is a topic of importance both for improving welfare by catering to individual needs, and for better understanding the results and implications of behavioral research. In this study, 23 squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus), housed in an environment that is both a zoo enclosure and research facility, were assessed for (i) the time they spent by an observation window under three visitor conditions: no visitors, small groups, and large groups; (ii) their likelihood of participating in voluntary research; and (iii) zookeepers, ratings of personality. A Friedman's ANOVA and Wilcoxon post-hoc tests comparing mean times found that the monkeys spent more time by the window when there were large groups present than when there were small groups or no visitors. Thus, visitors do not seem to have a negative effect and may be enriching for certain individuals. Through GLMM and correlational analyses, it was found that high scores on the personality trait of playfulness and low scores on cautiousness, depression, and solitude were significant predictors of increased window approach behavior when visitors were present. The GLMM and correlational analyses assessing the links between personality traits and research participation found that low scores of cautiousness and high scores of playfulness, gentleness, affection, and friendliness, were significant predictors. The implications of these results are discussed in relation to selection bias and its potential confounding effect on cognitive studies with voluntary participation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22639
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number5
Early online date2 Feb 2017
Publication statusPrint publication - May 2017

Bibliographical note



  • Animal welfare
  • Personality
  • Selection bias
  • Squirrel monkeys
  • Zoo visitors


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