Do "birds of a feather flock together" or do "opposites attract"? Behavioral responses and temperament predict success in pairings of rhesus monkeys in a laboratory setting

John P. Capitanio, Shelley A. Blozis, Jessica Snarr, Adrianne Steward, Brenda Mccowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


The growing recognition that social needs of primates in captivity must be addressed can present challenges to staff at primate facilities charged with implementing pair-housing solutions for animals. Unfortunately, there are few published papers that identify individual characteristics that might facilitate the social pairing process, and those that have looked at pre-pairing measures of behavior have produced mixed results. Using a database of n=340 isosexual pairing attempts, we report that measures associated with responses to a standardized infant assessment protocol (the BioBehavioral Assessment program) predict success in pairing attempts that occurred years later. Behavioral responses to a brief separation and relocation, to a human intruder challenge, as well as ratings of temperament, were obtained from rhesus monkeys at 3-4 months of age. Logistic regression was used to identify potential predictors of success when animals were paired up to 10 years after the behavioral assessments. Among females, success was higher when members of a pair were more similar (i.e., a smaller difference scores) in patterns of emotional responding (Emotionality, Nervous temperament) during the infant assessments. In contrast, among males, success was higher when the pair had lower mean values for Gentle and Nervous temperament scores; when the members were younger; when pairs had a greater weight difference; and when they came from the same rearing background. Together, our results suggest that broad measures reflecting patterns of emotionality in response to challenge, which can be assessed in infancy (but which remain relatively stable throughout life) can be usefully employed to increase the likelihood of success in pairing attempts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
StateAccepted/In press - 2015



  • Pairing
  • Sex differences
  • Socialization
  • Temperament
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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