Jane Goodall was Right: Chimps Do Share Personality Traits With Humans

“In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jane Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees she followed in Gombe National Park in what is now Tanzania. In her descriptions, some were more playful or aggressive, affectionate or nurturing. Many scientists at the time were horrified, she recalled… They contended she was inventing personality traits for animals…But time has borne out her insights. Chimpanzees in the wild have personalities similar to those in captivity, and both strongly overlap with traits that are familiar in humans, a new study published in Scientific Data confirms.”  K. Weintraub, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Jane and some of her chimps. NPR

Excerpt: Wild and Captive Chimpanzees Share Personality Traits With Humans By Karen Weintraub, the New York Times

“Dr. Goodall, now 83, said in a phone interview on Monday from her home in England that scientists thought ‘I was guilty of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.’ The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals in 1973 to include more than 100 additional chimps that were evaluated a few years ago. The animals were individually assessed by graduate students in the earlier study, and in the latest by Tanzanian field assistants, on personality traits like agreeableness, extroversion, depression, aggression and self-control.

Jane Goodall Institute

Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits in the two studies, but most of the personality types were consistent across the two studies. These traits seen among wild chimps matched ones seen among captive animals, the study found, and are similar to those described in people…Clive Wynne, a professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the research, said the new study offered a ‘really rich picture’ of the overlap among species. 

Jane and a baby

‘It’s backing up and reinforcing a number of things that we assume about animal personality that are seldom established with this degree of security in substantial wild-living populations,’ said Dr. Wynne, who concurs that dogs, his area of specialty, also have similar personality traits.

Jane Goodall-CBS News

Dr. Goodall said that fits what she’s seen, too. She only visits Gombe twice a year now, and only two animals are still alive from the days when she knew them as individuals. One, a mother of twins named Gremlin, has changed a bit, Dr. Goodall said… Dr. Goodall added that she’s pleased that researchers are still finding so much of interest at Gombe, and tapping into the expertise of Tanzanian field workers.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Jane Goodall.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

I. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees.
  2. Chimpanzees have the same personality traits like humans.
  3. During the early research many scientists at the time were horrified at Dr. Goodall’s statement.
  4. Dr. Goodall was accused of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.
  5. Researchers have found that many animals have very vivid personalities.
  6. The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals.
  7. These findings were in line with previous research done by Goodall.
  8. She knew from childhood experiences with guinea pigs, and other pets that animals have personalities that are quite familiar.
  9. According to Dr. Goodall, the ape named Gremlin has become more confident as she gets older.
  10. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits.

Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Robert Latzman, an ___professor at Georgia State University, who was not___in the study, said his___with ___in___ has always left open the question of whether animals in the wild are somehow different… ‘The work in the ___how similar these ___truly are to humans.’

WORD LIST: animals, underscores, wild, zoos, chimpanzees, research, involved, associate,

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. Many scientists at the time  did not agree with Goodall.
  2. Animals show the same traits as humans.
  3. The animals  was individually assessed.



  1. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits.
  2. According to Goodall,  animals have vivid personalities.
  3. Some say that dogs also has similar personality traits.


  1. Research in the wild underscores how similar these animals truly is to humans.
  2. Researchers still have interest  in the chimps at Gombe.
  3. Goodall only visits Gombe twice a year now.


III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Reading Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


Category: Animals