Animal Personality

Abstract

Personality represents individual behavioural differences that are consistent over time and across situations. In humans and many taxa of nonhuman animals, individuals differ in the way they react to novel and challenging situations, and these differences affect resource acquisition, social interactions, survival and reproduction. Researchers in fields like psychology, behaviour genetics or behavioural ecology have developed different methods to study and measure personality differences, each method being characterised by its own advantages and limitations. The results associated with each method provide different colours to the concept of personality. The main goal of students of animal personality is to understand why individuals differ in their behavioural responses to identical stimuli, and why they often show sets of correlated behaviour traits. Several adaptive theoretical hypotheses offer promising explanations for the maintenance of personality differences in wild populations, although empirical confirmation of their predictions is still needed.

Key Concepts:

  • Personality represents individual behavioural differences that are consistent over time and across situations.

  • The concept ‘individual consistency’ only makes sense with the population as a referent.

  • Individual differences define the evolutionary potential of a population.

  • Individual differences within a population, differences between populations and potentially between species, are all expressions of genetic/environmental differences at different levels of organisation.

  • Rating, coding and experimental manipulation, are the three approaches to study personality in animals: each approach has advantages and limitations.

  • Individual behavioural differences are key to understanding many ecological processes and patterns.

  • We distinguish five evolutionary mechanisms that can explain the maintenance of personality differences in wild populations: trade‐offs between life history traits; spatial‐temporal heterogeneity; frequency‐dependent selection; antagonistic selection; correlational selection.

Keywords: personality; behavioural syndrome; rating; coding; experimental tests; life‐history trade‐offs; frequency‐dependent selection; spatial‐temporal heterogeneity; antagonistic selection; correlational selection

Figure 1.

Individuals can change their behavioural phenotype depending on the environmental conditions (phenotypic plasticity). However, when personality differences exist, individuals maintain their relative ranks across conditions. In (a) a behaviour is measured for three individuals in three different environments (E1, E2 and E3). Variation among individuals in the population (thick, black, double arrow) is larger than the variation within each individual (the three thin double arrows). In this extreme case, individual lines are totally parallel, and within‐individual variance represents approximately half of the between‐individual variance (repeatability ≈0.5). In case (b), we still observe individual consistent differences, but there is also some overlap between them. Note that within‐individual variance differs among individuals and is moderate compared to the between‐individual variance (repeatability <0.5); this scenario is probably closest to the reality observed in most natural populations. In case (c) one cannot predict what each individual will do in one environment based on the information from another environment. Furthermore, within‐individual variation is as large as among‐ individual variation (repeatability=0). Adapted from Réale and Dingemanse with permission of Cambridge University Press.

close

References

Bell A, Hankison S and Laskowski K (2009) The repeatability of behaviour: a meta‐analysis. Animal Behaviour 77: 771–783.

Bell AM and Sih A (2007) Exposure to predation generates personality in threespined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Ecology Letters 10: 828–834.

Biro P and Stamps J (2008) Are animal personality traits linked to life‐history productivity? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 23: 361–368.

Blows M (2007) A tale of two matrices: multivariate approaches in evolutionary biology. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20: 1–8.

Boon AK, Réale D and Boutin S (2007) The interaction between personality, offspring fitness and food abundance in North American red squirrels. Ecology Letters 10: 1094–1104.

Brodie ED III (1992) Correlational selection for color pattern and antipredator behavior in the garter snake Thamnophis ordinoides. Evolution 46: 1284–1298.

Buss DM (2009) An evolutionary formulation of person–situation interactions. Journal of Research in Personality 43: 241–242.

Careau V, Bininda‐Emonds O, Thomas D, Réale D and Humphries M (2008a) Exploration strategies map along fast–slow metabolic and life‐history continua in muroid rodents. Functional Ecology 23: 150–156.

Careau V, Thomas D, Humphries M and Réale D (2008b) Energy metabolism and animal personality. Oikos 117: 641–653.

Costa PT Jr and McCrae RR (1992) Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO‐PI‐R) and NEO Five‐Factor Inventory (NEO‐FFI) Professional Manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment.

Cote J, Dreiss A and Clobert J (2008) Social personality trait and fitness. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275: 2851–2858.

Dall SRX, Houston A and McNamara J (2004) The behavioural ecology of personality: consistent individual differences from an adaptive perspective. Ecology Letters 7: 734–739.

Dingemanse NJ, Both C, Drent PJ and Tinbergen J (2004) Fitness consequences of avian personalities in a fluctuating environment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 271: 847–852.

Dingemanse NJ, Kazem A, Réale D and Wright J (2010) Behavioural reaction norms: animal personality meets individual plasticity. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25: 81–89.

Dingemanse NJ and Réale D (2005) Natural selection and animal personality. Behaviour 142(9): 1159–1184.

Dingemanse NJ and Wolf M (2010) Recent models for adaptive personality differences: a review. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365: 3947–3958.

Duckworth R and Badyaev A (2007) Coupling of dispersal and aggression facilitates the rapid range expansion of a passerine bird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104: 15017–15022.

Forstmeier W, Martin K, Bolund E, Schielzeth H and Kempenaers B (2011) Female extrapair mating behavior can evolve via indirect selection on males. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108: 10608–10613.

Gosling S (2001) From mice to men: what can we learn about personality from animal research? Psychological Bulletin 127: 45–86.

Gosling SD (2008) Personality in non‐human animals. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2: 985–1001.

Johnstone RA and Manica A (2011) Evolution of personality differences in leadership. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108: 8373–8378.

Konecná M, Lhota S, Weiss A et al. (2008) Personality in free‐ranging Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus) males: subjective ratings and recorded behavior. Journal of Comparative Psychology 122: 379–389.

Koolhaas J, de Boer SF and Coppens CM (2010) Neuroendocrinology of coping styles: towards understanding the biology of individual variation. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 31: 307–321.

Koolhaas J, Korte S, de Boer SF et al. (1999) Coping styles in animals: current status in behavior and stress‐physiology. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 23: 925–935.

Maynard‐Smith J (1982) Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McNamara J, Stephens P, Dall SRX and Houston A (2009) Evolution of trust and trustworthiness: social awareness favours personality differences. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276: 605.

Mettke‐Hofmann C, Winkler H and Leisler B (2002) The significance of ecological factors for exploration and neophobia in parrots. Ethology 108: 249–272.

Pruitt JN and Riechert SE (2009) Sex matters: sexually dimorphic fitness consequences of a behavioural syndrome. Animal Behaviour 78: 175–181.

Quinn J, Patrick S, Bouwhuis S, Wilkin T and Sheldon B (2009) Heterogeneous selection on a heritable temperament trait in a variable environment. Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 1203–1215.

Réale D and Dingemanse NJ (2010) Personality and individual social specialisation. In: Székely T, Moore AJ and Komdeur J (eds) Social Behaviour: Genes, Ecology and Evolution, pp. 417–441. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Réale D and Festa‐Bianchet M (2003) Predator‐induced natural selection on temperament in bighorn ewes. Animal Behaviour 65: 463–470.

Réale D, Garant D, Humphries MM et al. (2010) Personality and the emergence of the pace‐of‐life syndrome concept at the population level. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365: 4051–4063.

Roberts B and DelVecchio W (2000) The rank‐order consistency of personality traits from childhood to old age: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin 126: 3–25.

Sih A, Bell A, Johnson J and Ziemba R (2004) Behavioral syndromes: an integrative overview. Quarterly Review of Biology 79: 241–277.

Smith B and Blumstein D (2008) Fitness consequences of personality: a meta‐analysis. Behavioral Ecology 19: 448–455.

Stamps JA and Groothuis TGG (2010) Developmental perspectives on personality: implications for ecological and evolutionary studies of individual differences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365: 4029–4041.

Terracciano A, Costa PT and McCrae R (2006) Personality plasticity after age 30. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 32: 999–1009.

Uher J and Asendorpf J (2008) Personality assessment in the great apes: comparing ecologically valid behavior measures, behavior ratings, and adjective ratings. Journal of Research in Personality 42: 821–838.

Vazire S, Gosling S, Dickey A and Schapiro S (2007) Measuring personality in nonhuman animals. In: Robins R, Fraley C and Krueger RF (eds) Handbook of Research Methods in Personality Psychology, pp. 190–206. New York: The Guilford Press.

Weinstein TAR, Capitanio JP and Gosling SD (2008) Personality in animals. In: John OP, Robins RW and Pervin LA (eds) Handbook of Personality: Theory and Methods, pp. 328–350. New York: The Guilford Press.

Weiss A, King J and Figueredo A (2000) The heritability of personality factors in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Behavioral Genetics 30: 213–221.

Westneat D and Fox C (2010) Evolutionary Behavioural Ecology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wolf M, Van Doorn GS, Leimar O and Weissing F (2007) Life‐history trade‐offs favour the evolution of animal personalities. Nature 447: 581–584.

Wolf M, Van Doorn GS and Weissing F (2008) Evolutionary emergence of responsive and unresponsive personalities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105: 15825.

Wolf M and Weissing FJ (2010) An explanatory framework for adaptive personality differences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365: 3959–3968.

Further Reading

Bergmüller R and Taborsky M (2010) Animal personality due to social niche specialisation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25: 504–511.

Buss D and Hawley P (eds) (2011) The Evolution of Personality and Individual Differences. New York: Oxford University Press.

Capitanio J (2008) Personality and disease. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 22: 647–650.

Carere C and Maestripieri D (eds) (2012) Animal Personalities: Behaviour, Physiology and Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Clark AB and Ehlinger TJ (1987) Pattern and adaptation in individual behavioral differences In: Bateson PPG and Klopfer PH (eds) Perspectives in Ethology, pp. 1–47. New York, NY: Plenum.

Réale D, Reader S, Sol D, McDougall P and Dingemanse NJ (2007) Integrating animal temperament within ecology and evolution. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 82: 291–318.

Réale D, Dingemanse NJ, Kazem AJN and Wright J (eds) (2010) Evolutionary and ecological approaches to the study of personality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B 365(1560): 3935–4106.

Schuett W, Tregenza T and Dall SRX (2009) Sexual selection and animal personality. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 84: 1–30.

Weiss A, King JE and Murray L (eds) (2011) Personality and Temperament in Nonhuman Primates. New York: Springer.

Wilson DS, Clark AB, Coleman K and Dearstyne T (1994) Shyness and boldness in humans and other animals. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9: 442–446.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Réale, Denis, and Dingemanse, Niels J(Jul 2012) Animal Personality. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023570]