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 below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "2002 Best Inventions: Dog Translator." TIME Magazine. (March 14, 2008).
  • "Gadget with more byte than bark." BBC News. Aug. 8, 2001. (March 14, 2008)
  • "Principles of Organizable Behavior 4e: Glossary." Oxford University Press. (March 14, 2008)
  • Booth, Jenny. "Eli Lilly launches first Prozac for dogs." Times Online. April 25, 2007. (March 14, 2008)
  • Cleland, Gary. "Owners give Prozac to depressed pets." Telegraph. Feb. 26, 2008. (March 14, 2008)
  • Cottam, Martha. "Introduction to Political Psychology." Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. (March 13, 2008)
  • Dingemanse, Niels J. et al. "Repeatability and heritability of exploratory behavior in great tits from the wild." Animal Behaviour, 2002, 64, 929-937.
  • Dye, Lee. "Do Pets Really Have Personalities?" ABC News. June 6, 2007. (March 14, 2008)
  • Gosling, Samuel D. "Personality in Non-human Animals." Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2 (2008): 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00087.x. (March 14, 2008)
  • Gosling, Samuel D. Kwan, Virginia S. Y., John, Oliver P. "A Dog's Got Personality: A Cross-Species Comparative Approach to Personality Judgments in Dogs and Humans." American Psychological Association. Vol. 85(6), Dec 2003. pp. 1161-1169
  • Zimmer, Carl. "Looking for Personality in Animals, of All People." New York Times. March 1, 2005. (March 14, 2008)