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John Capitanio


  • Ph.D., Comparative Psychology, University of California, Davis
  • M.A., Comparative Psychology, University of California, Davis
  • B.S., University of Massachusetts, Amherst


John Capitanio is a Research Psychologist at the University of California, Davis, and a core scientist at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), which is located at UC Davis. From 2002 to 2011, he served as the Center’s Associate Director for Research. During that time, he was also a Professor of Psychology at UC Davis. He is currently the Leader of the Neuroscience and Behavior Unit at CNPRC. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Psychology from UC Davis in 1982, spent two years as a postdoc in the Developmental Psychobiology program at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and spent several additional years teaching and conducting research in a variety of institutions. He returned to UC Davis in 1990.

Research Focus

Capitanio's research focuses on the causes, consequences, and correlates of individual variation in temperament/personality in nonhuman primates. (The current instrument used for assessing personality in rhesus monkeys is available here.) Research involving numerous students and collaborators has explored causes and correlates as diverse as Monoamine Oxidase-A genotype, prenatal experiences, exposure to pharmacological substances, and energy content and cortisol concentrations in mothers' milk. Studies examining consequences of individual variation include health outcomes (asthma, simian immunodeficiency virus infection, and colitis), as well as mechanisms relevant to these diseases, including glucocorticoid regulation of immune function, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal regulation, immune cell gene expression, inflammation, and aspects of lymph node biology.  A strong emphasis throughout his research is on behavioral and social processes, and how they shape, buffer, and constrain physiological processes. He also has an abiding interest in the welfare of captive nonhuman primates.

Selected Publications

  • Capitanio, J.P., in press. Naturally-occurring nonhuman primate models of psychosocial processes. To appear in special issue on Contributions of Primate Research to Human Studies. ILAR Journal.

    Capitanio, J.P., Mason, W.A., in press.  Personality as adaptation: Perspectives from nonhuman primates.  In Lynam, D. R. & Samuel, D. B. (Eds.), Using basic personality research to inform the personality disorders. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Capitanio, J.P. Variation in BioBehavioral Organization. Pp. 55-73 in S. Schapiro (Ed.), Handbook of Primate Behavioral Management, 2017. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

    Cole, S.W., Capitanio, J.P., Chun, K., Arevalo, J.M.G., Ma, J., Cacioppo, J.T.  Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2015, 112: 15142-15147

    Chun, K., Capitanio, J.P., Lamkin, D., Sloan, E., Arevalo, J., Cole, S.W. Social regulation of the lymph node transcriptome in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2017, 76: 107-113.

    Sclafani V, Del Rosso LA, Seil SK, Calonder LA, Madrid JE, Bone KJ, Sherr EH, Garner JP, Capitanio JP, Parker KJ. Early predictors of impaired social functioning in male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). PLoS ONE, 2016, 11(10): e0165401. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165401.

    Hinde, K., Skibiel, A. L.,  Foster, A. B.,   del Rosso, L., Mendoza, S. P.,  &   Capitanio, J. P. (in press). Cortisol in mother’s milk reflects maternal life history and predicts infanttemperament. Behavioral Ecology
  • Hennessy, M. B.,  McCowan, B., Jiang, J., & Capitanio, J. P.  Depressive-like behavioral response of adult male rhesus monkeys during routine animal husbandry procedure. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8:309. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00309. 
  • Weinstein, T. A. R., Bales, K. L.,  Maninger, N., Hostetler, C. M., & Capitanio, J. P. (2014). Early involvement in friendships predicts later plasma concentrations of oxytocin and vasopressin in juvenile rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8:295. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00295. 
  • Capitanio, J. P., Hawkley, L. C., Cole, S. W., &  Cacioppo, J. T. (in press). A behavioral taxonomy of loneliness in humans and rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). PLoS One
  • Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S.,  Cole, S. W,  Capitanio, J. P., Goossens, & Boomsma, D.I. (accepted). Loneliness across phylogeny and a call for comparative studies and animal models. Perspectives on Psychological Science.


Capitanio has taught courses in Introductory Psychology, Introductory Biology, Introductory Psychobiology, Comparative Psychology, Animal Models of Psychopathology, Physiological Psychology, Health Psychology, and History of Animal Behavior.


Capitanio is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. He was a recipient of the Patricia R. Barchas Award in Sociophysiology from the American Psychosomatic Society, a Charter Member of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, and the Distinguished Primatologist in 2012 of the American Society of Primatologists. He is a former President of the American Society of Primatologists, and from 2010 to 2011 he served as guest editor of the American Journal of Primatology: Special issue on Social Processes and Disease in Nonhuman Primates.