Transdisciplinary Research on Individuals 


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Philosophy-of-Science (TPS) Paradigm

  Aims and scope




Conceptual analyses:
Topics and findings

Empirical applications:
Studies and results


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Transdisciplinary Philosophy-of-Science Paradigm for Research on Individuals (TPS Paradigm)






























 - Empirical applications: Studies and results -

Research reaching across cultures and species -

In empirical projects, conducted in interdisciplinary and international collaborations, the TPS Paradigm has been applied to investigate humans of different ages and sociocultural backgrounds as well as various species of nonhuman primates, especially great apes, capuchin monkeys and macaques. Nonhuman primates are particularly interesting for comparative research given the variability in their social systems and behavioural ecologies and in their degree of phylogenetic relationship to humans. 

The broad perspective taken in this line of research offers unique opportunities for studying social, biological and ecological processes that are associated with the emergence of individual-specificity ('personality') and their promotion by semiotic representations (everyday psychology of 'personality') in humans. This perspective also contributes to illuminate fundamental questions in evolutionary research, especially the age-old question of what actually makes humans unique amongst all species existing today.

Research on individuals

Research on individual specificity ('personality')

Evidence-based explorations of the psychical processes during "personality" assessments

The TPS Paradigm and the cutting-edge methodologies and video-based technologies of Subjective Evidence-Based Ethnography (SEBE; Lahlou, 2011; Uher, 2016b) are applied to how people perceive individual behaviours of adults in everyday contexts and how they judge the personality of other persons. A specific focus lies on possible biases derived from stereotypical beliefs about gender and ethnicity, focussing on "Black" and "White" as prototypical categories of ethnicities that are at the centre of many social conflicts worldwide.   

A further aim is to investigate the psychical processes involved in standardised 'personality' assessments. The aim is to systematically deconstruct the requirements that standardised assessment tasks impose on respondents and to reconstruct the social knowledge and the psychical processes involved therein. These processes are still largely unknown despite the fact that standardised questionnaires have become the primary tool of investigation in many fields of psychology and the social sciences.

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Individual-specific behaviours - 'personality' - identified with observations

A central approach to comparative psychology are behavioural studies because behaviours can be studied in humans and other species alike. To identify individual-specificity in behaviours - 'personality' - a broad portfolio of behavioural research methods is used, including live observations in real-life settings, behavioural experiments, and audiovisual and computerised methods for the detailed recording of behaviours. 

Empirical studies have shown that individual-specific variations ('personality differences') occur in a broad range of behaviours across the behavioural repertoires of great apes (Uher, Asendorpf, & Call, 2008) and of various monkey species such as capuchin monkeys (Uher, Addessi, & Visalberghi, 2013a) and  crab-eating macaques (Uher, Werner, & Gosselt, 2013b). 

Interestingly, sex differences were less pronounced in crab-eating macaques (Uher et al., 2013b) and even largely absent in capuchin monkeys (Uher et al., 2013a),  mandrills, toque macaques and rhesus macaques; Uher, 2015e). This is in contrast to the pronounced gender differences that young children displayed in their behaviours in kindergarten settings, indicating cultural but not necessarily evolutionary influences (Uher & Collard, in prep.).

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Formation of "personality" impressions - comparative analyses

The ability of humans to quickly form personality impressions of other individuals and to develop social category systems and a pertinent everyday vocabulary could have been of enormous importance in human evolution: Such abilities enabled our ancestors to trade with unknown individuals of foreign cultures and were essential prerequisites for the domestication of animals. 

By exploring humans' impression formation and their assessments of individuals from other species that are phylogenetically related yet have different social and behavioural systems and with which humans are much less acquainted than they are with individuals of their own species, attribution biases derived from stereotypical beliefs and ideas about human individuals become particularly apparent.

Multi-method studies have shown substantial coherence between personality ratings on different types of items and individual-specific behaviours measured with behavioural tests and observations (Uher, 2011b; Uher & Asendorpf, 2008). But they have also revealed complex attribution biases related to the raters' stereotypical beliefs about age, sex, social position and early life history (Uher & Visalberghi, 2016; Uher, Werner, & Gosselt, 2013b). 


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