Do animals have personalities?

Implications of Animal Personality Studies
Further tests on animal personality could reveal much about human personality
Further tests on animal personality could reveal much about human personality
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If animals have unique personalities, so what? These studies actually could have some interesting uses and implications.

For instance, Gosling hopes that his work on dogs will lead to some reliable methods for determining a dog's individual personality. If we can accurately assess a dog's personality, then people and families who are looking to buy or adopt a dog will be able to find one that matches their own tastes and temperaments. In addition, Gosling hopes perfected methods might help people predict which dogs will be best in working situations, such as search-and-rescue, detecting explosives or guiding.

Also, researchers hope the studies will shed light on human personality. Although psychologists have been studying human personality for a long time, animal personality studies have great potential to shed light on people. We can learn a lot from certain personality tests that are easier or more ethical to conduct on animals than on humans. Gosling mentions the following examples to show how animal personality research could contribute to knowledge about human personality:

  • Scientists can observe animals more extensively and longer than they can humans, so they can learn more about behavior in different situations.
  • Experimenters can inject hormones into animals, which allows them to observe the effects on behavior.
  • Testing drugs that affect neurotransmitter activity in animals can show how it alters behavior.
  • Removing and testing brain tissue in animals lets scientists measure chemical activity better.
  • Scientists can control an animal's living conditions to see how comfortable and harsh environments affect the development of personality traits.

[source: Gosling]

In addition, because research on the evolution of personality is scarce, animal research could tell us a lot about the evolution of human personality [source: Zimmer].

To learn more about animal personality studies and to read some related HowStuffWorks articles on animals, investigate the links on the next page.

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