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Future Directions for Personality Research: Contributing New Insights to the Understanding of Animal Behavior

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Cognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
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Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach Institute for Zoology and Anthropology, Georg-August-University, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
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Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
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Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, 24306 Plön, Germany
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Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, NO-0508 Oslo, Norway
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Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland
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Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK
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Center for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK
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Scottish Primate Research Group
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 240; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050240
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 30 April 2019 / Accepted: 10 May 2019 / Published: 15 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Behavioural Biology)
Personality—i.e., individual differences in behavior and emotion—is increasingly being recognized as important in animal research. Whilst numerous studies highlight behavioral variation across a diverse range of species, an understanding of what drives this variation, and how it is maintained, is still limited. Moreover, applying the study of individual differences to issues such as stress coping and health outcomes could be hugely beneficial to animal welfare. We discuss these topics, along with promising avenues for future personality research, which should benefit a broader understanding of animal behavior.
As part of the European Conference on Behavioral Biology 2018, we organized a symposium entitled, “Animal personality: providing new insights into behavior?” The aims of this symposium were to address current research in the personality field, spanning both behavioral ecology and psychology, to highlight the future directions for this research, and to consider whether differential approaches to studying behavior contribute something new to the understanding of animal behavior. In this paper, we discuss the study of endocrinology and ontogeny in understanding how behavioral variation is generated and maintained, despite selection pressures assumed to reduce this variation. We consider the potential mechanisms that could link certain traits to fitness outcomes through longevity and cognition. We also address the role of individual differences in stress coping, mortality, and health risk, and how the study of these relationships could be applied to improve animal welfare. From the insights provided by these topics, we assert that studying individual differences through the lens of personality has provided new directions in behavioral research, and we encourage further research in these directions, across this interdisciplinary field. View Full-Text
Keywords: individual differences; personality; developmental plasticity; fitness; longevity; animal welfare; stress coping; wellbeing; endocrinology individual differences; personality; developmental plasticity; fitness; longevity; animal welfare; stress coping; wellbeing; endocrinology
MDPI and ACS Style

Wilson, V.; Guenther, A.; Øverli, Ø.; Seltmann, M.W.; Altschul, D. Future Directions for Personality Research: Contributing New Insights to the Understanding of Animal Behavior. Animals 2019, 9, 240.

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