Today’s NY Times Magazine has a rather fascinating story about research on animal personality. Although eradicated by behaviourism, the notion that others animals than ourselves display various personality types – timid, bold, aggresive, etc. – is becoming increasingly accepted in the worlds of biology and psychology. Researchers such as Sam Gosling – visit his site for in-depth research papers on the topic – are pondering why personalities exist at all; why aren’t the behavioural profile of the members of an species just uniform and similar? The answer may be that it is advantageous to have a repertoire of behavioral traits around if the milieu of a species should change. In some niches bold members will have a survival edge, in others cautious members will be better of.
Unfortunately, the article doesn’t go into the issue of what brain processes underlie personality traits. This kind of research is also booming, though. So, perhaps we may hope to see a follow-up article on this topic as well.
Siebert, C. (2006): The Animal Self. New York Times Magazine, January 22 issue.