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Personality is the consistent patterns in cognitive and behavioral traits, such as affect, cognition, and behavior. These traits are measurable, are found in a broad array of species, and are commonly transferable among species (Gosling, 2008).

“Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole” - American Psychological Association.

The APA definition for personality includes all animals, and is not exclusive to humans. A Person, being the root word of personality, is not limited, in its most basic definition, to being a human. Rather, a person is the combination of traits that describe a specific personality or self. Most all animals can have a personality, even insects have been known to exhibit a persona. Samuel D Gosling describes two fruit flies in the beginning of his article “Personality in Non-human Animals”. Frank, an aggressive fruit fly, pushes, punches, and kicks other fruit flies, whereas Fred, a more timid fruit fly, is less aggressive. Gosling also describes Terry and Tim, two trout, differing in boldness in the context of hunting for things to eat. Unlike Tim, Terry is unafraid of new areas and potential predators. Tim avoids new feeding areas and hunts for food in known safe locations. It is important to note that the personality of an animal is observed in its consistency of an individuals behavior differing from other animals of the same species. There are also personality norms through the species, often found between genders (Gosling, Samuel, 2008). The diversity of animal personality can be compared in cross-species studies in order to demonstrate how pervasive it has been to the evolutionary prosses of animals. Cross-species studies can also provide evidence for the historical genetic similarities of species.

Five Factor Model

The animal personality game (Lucky Star 18) - Instigated by Konata the gang play a game matching up various animals to each girl's personality. Despite protestations Kagami seems taken by the animal ...

The Five Factor Model, or The Big Five Personalities can be used to assign personality archetypes to most animals . The 5 categories for the five factor model for personality are Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Each of these categories identifies a fraction of a beings personality. Because the assessment of personality using the five factor model for personalities is often a self reported measure for humans, applying this model to animals can be difficult to standardize. Researchers often measure personality by assessing the behavior of the being over a period of time to establish the pattern. Naturally, some animals may not have as wide a range of personality as humans do. The species of the animal determines how the personality manifests itself. Likewise, a species may be predisposed to exhibit a category of personality more than other categories. So far, Chimpanzees are the only animal that exhibits conscientiousness.


If You Were An Animal, Which One Would You Be?

Animals known to exhibit personality factors were categorized using the big five personalities in Samuel Goslings "personality in Non-human Animals" (2008). Neuroticism, agreeableness, and extraversion were the most common personality traits among animals. For example; Chimpanzees show emotional stability (N), agreeableness (A), surgency(E) audiovisual reactivity (N), affect-extraversion (E) excitability-agitation (N), aggression affinity (A), and social play (E). The rest of the table outlines other animals including Gorillas, Rhesus monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Hyaenas, Dogs, Cats, and Octopuses.


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The study of animal personality is in its infancy. This has led to a number of published articles outlining the methods of measuring and animal personality. There have been a number of studies done that have faced the problems of any young field of study. Samuel Gosling notes in his article " Personality Dimensions in Non-human Animals: A Cross-Species Review" that simply because a personality trait isn't readily measurable doesn't mean it doesn't exist. He stresses that when an element of personality appears to be missing form a species, a multitude of various methods should be utilized to prove that it is not present. (Gosling, Samuel; John P. Oliver, 1999) Gosling has developed an early map of animal personality outlining the five factor personalities and the dimensions the species exhibits. Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness are prevalent in most of the species that have been studied for personality. Openness isn't as prevalent because it is present in about half of the species studied (this may be due to the studies methodologies not explicitly looking for openness). Opposite sexes may also exhibit different patterns of personality. For example, in humans, women score higher in worrying (a diminution of neuroticism) than do men. In hyaenas, the reverse is true, and males exhibit more neuroticism than females, because they are consistently more high-strung and nervous. Gosling states that the possibility of gender specific personalities should not be ruled out for other species. (Gosling, Samuel; John P. Oliver, 1999) These findings have provided a cornerstone for future research to build upon.


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Because critical anthropomorphism, ethology, and comparative psychology are relatively unknown concepts to the layman, there are critics that question the validity in the claim that animals have a personality schema. There are those that fear that, while assessing behaviors, researchers will project anthropomorphic ratings onto the animals. (Gosling, Samuel; John P. Oliver, 1999)


Frontiers | An empiricist guide to animal personality variation in ...

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