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Personality and Social Context

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There has been considerable interest among biologists in the phenomenon of non-human animal personality in recent years. Consistent variations among individuals in their behavioural responses to ecologically relevant stimuli, often relating to a trade-off between level of risk and reward, have been recorded in a wide variety of species, representing many animal taxa. Research into behavioural variation among individuals has major implications for our understanding of ecological patterns and processes at scales from the level of the individual to the level of the population. Until recently, however, many studies that have considered the broader ecological implications of animal personality have failed to take into account the crucial moderating effect of social context. It is well documented that social processes, such as conformity and facilitation, exert considerable influence on the behaviour of grouping animals and hence that isolated individuals may often behave in a qualitatively as well as quantitatively different manner to those in groups. Recently, a number of studies have begun to address aspects of this gap in our knowledge and have provided vital insights. In this review we examine the state of our knowledge on the relationship between individual personality and sociality. In doing so we consider the influence of the social context on individual personality responses, the interaction between the collective personalities of group members and the expression of those personalities in the individual, and the influence of the personalities of group members on group structure and function. We propose key areas of focus for future studies in order to develop our understanding of this fundamentally important area.


Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Review
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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