Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 281
Personality in animals/ethology/Gosling: The most comprehensive review to date of the animal personality literature identified personality studies in sixty-four different non-human species (Gosling 2001)(1). Since that review, studies of personality in numerous other species have emerged, ranging from water striders (Sih and Watters 2005)(2), lizards (Cote and Clobert 2007)(3), and squid (Sinn, Gosling and Moltschaniwskyj 2008)(4), to tropical fish (Brown, Jones and Braithwaite 2005)(5), geese (Kralj-Fiser, Scheiber, Blejec et al. 2007)(6) and orangutans (Weiss, King and Perkins 2006)(7). It should be noted, however, that researchers do not always explicitly use the term ‘personality’. For example, researchers may use terms like ‘behavioural syndromes’, ‘behavioural types’, or ‘temperament’, often not for theoretical reasons reasons but in an effort to avoid the anthropomorphic connotations of a word with ‘person’ in it.
Cross-species comparisons: One challenge facing any comparative researcher is determining the degree to which apparently similar traits really are tapping the same underlying trait. How can it be determined that what appears to be boldness in squid or trout or chimpanzees is in any way similar to boldness in humans? for example, the chimpanzee facial display in which the lips are retracted so that clenched teeth are exposed reflects fear, not happiness, as might be assumed by the expression’s apparent similarity to a human smile. To solve this challenge, cross-species researchers can draw on the lessons learned by cross-cultural researchers.
Corr I 282
The solution to determining cross-cultural equivalence of anger expressions is examining what comes before and after the expressions, and where possible, looking for commonalities in underlying physiology. When generalizing across species, scientists must consider several dimensions of similarity and difference (Gosling 2001)(1). As a rule, researchers making cross-species comparisons should consider the species’ environmental and social ecologies, their biology, and their phylogenetic relationships with other species, and the importance of these criteria should be weighed according to what phenomenon is being examined.
Corr I 283
Origin and function of traits: By examining the existence of traits against a backdrop of known phylogenetic relationships among species, researchers can pinpoint the likely period during which that trait emerged and can use this information to infer the original function of that trait (Fraley, Brumbaugh and Marks 2005(8); Gosling and Graybeal 2007)(9).




1. Gosling, S. D. 2001. From mice to men: what can we learn about personality from animal research?, Psychological Bulletin 127: 45–86
2. Sih, A. and Watters, J. V. 2005. The mix matters: behavioural types and group dynamics in water striders, Behaviour 142: 1417–31
3. Cote, J. and Clobert, J. 2007. Social personalities influence natal dispersal in a lizard, Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274: 383–90
4. Sinn, D. L., Gosling, S. D. and Moltschaniwskyj, N. A. 2008. Development of shy/bold behaviour in squid: context-specific phenotypes associated with developmental plasticity, Animal Behaviour 75: 433–42
5. Brown, C., Jones, F. and Braithwaite, V. 2005. In situ examination of boldness-shyness traits in the tropical poeciliid, Brachyraphis episcopi, Animal Behaviour 70: 1003–9
6. Kralj-Fiser, S. Scheiber, I. B. R., Blejec, A., Moestl, E. and Kotrschal, K. 2007. Individualities in a flock of free-roaming greylag geese: behavioural and physiological consistency over time and across situations, Hormones and Behaviour 51: 239–48
7. Weiss, A., King, J. E. and Perkins, L. 2006. Personality and subjective well-being in orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo abelii), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90: 501–11
8. Fraley, R. C., Brumbaugh, C. C. and Marks, M. J. 2005. The evolution and function of adult attachment: a comparative and phylogenetic analysis, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89: 808–22
9. Gosling, S. D. and Graybeal, A. 2007. Tree thinking: a new paradigm for integrating comparative data in psychology, Journal of General Psychology 134: 259–77



Samuel D. Gosling and B. Austin Harley, „Animal models of personality and cross-species comparisons“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.)2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gosling, Samuel D.
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-06-25
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