I'm looking at the Myers Briggs type indicator and am trying to understand if type/personality preferences are a human only construct. I'm talking about Introversion-Extraversion, Sensing or iNtuition, Thinking-Feeling, Judging-Perceiving.

Reading books on personality, human children are frequently described as already having some type preference (for example the intuitive child versus sensing child) which gets developed as the child matures. This makes me question as to where this original preference comes from. If it comes from some brain structure, I'm interested if lower animals also have these structures.

I know that animals have alpha/beta males which determines social dominance, but are there other personality traits that have been identified in animals?

For example, a common proverb is "curiosity killed the cat" - are some cats more curious than others? Are some specimens of the same species more sociable (extraverted) than others?

Another example would be experiments in primates, where monkeys were able to deceive their peers.

  • $\begingroup$ A comment to your question: "I know that....identified in animals?" I don't know if being an alpha male counts as a personality trait as this term is used in personality psychology. Being an alpha male is the title resulting from social dominance which is determined almost purely by physical strength in the animal kingdom (see here) $\endgroup$ Nov 15 '14 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I guess dominance would be more of a personality trait for an alpha male, because it denotes the male's outlook on peers and disposition towards them. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Nov 16 '14 at 16:52

"are there other personality traits that have been identified in animals?"

There are quite a bit of hits on Google about this.

Here's a foundation dedicated to research on animal personalities:

The Animal Personality Institute (API), founded in 2004, is an interdisciplinary group of researcher dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of personality and temperament in non-human animals. http://animalpersonalityinstitute.net/

Here's a summary of a study on some personality traits among ducks:

Weissing and his colleagues ran various model simulations of scenarios that included a resource as well as responsive and unresponsive animals. He said the new model shows, for example, when it's optimal for animals to react to a change in food and when it's not. It turns out that competing personalities help to keep a healthy balance in a group.

Research on personality among fish:

Working with Dr Bart Adriaenssens at the University of New South Wales, Dr Biro observed the behavior of adult male mosquitofish over 132 days. They found that the behavior of some individuals was consistently more predictable in a given context than others. Mosquitofish were used for the study because they are widespread and easily sampled from ponds in and around cities. "We observed that individuals differed in their average levels of activity, but also differed in variability about their average activity," Dr Biro explained. "Some individuals chose to be active, others chose to be sedentary, some were consistent in their chosen level of activity, others not. But, we found no association between activity levels and predictability. "What this tells us is that the fish differed in how unpredictable they were, and that this unpredictability is a consistent attribute over time. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131031092311.htm

Here's a research document on animal personalities:

The past decade has seen a very rapid growth in research on animal personality. The growth is taking place across a wide variety of fields ranging from applied ethology, beha vioral ecology, and zoo management to biology, primatology, and comparative psychology. Having established that personality exists in animals and can be measured, researchers have begun to exploit numerous benefits of animal research, such as the high degree of experimental control, the ability to measure a range of physiological parameters, the opportunities for naturalistic observation, and animals’ accelerated life span. http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/AnimPersInst/Animal%20Personality%20PDFs/G/Gosling%202008.pdf

Wikipedia also has an article on the topic:

Personality is the consistent patterns in cognitive and behavioral traits, such as affect, cognition, and behavior.[1] These traits are measurable, are found in a broad array of species, and are commonly transferable among species (Gosling, 2008). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_in_animals


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