Thursday, April 15, 2010

Like humans - Leaders, Followers and Schmoozers among animals

Natalie Angier does an interesting article describing work showing that the array of personality types noted within human groups, mostly likely largely due to genetic variation, is seen also in many animal populations (stylistic diversity is seen in chimpanzees, monkeys, barnacle geese, farm minks, blue tits and great tits, bighorn sheep, dumpling squid, pumpkinseed sunfish, zebra finches, spotted hyenas, even spiders and water striders, to name a few). A particular robust parallel is noted with variation in the traits of neophobia (fear of novelty) versus the willingness to explore one’s surroundings (The trait distinctive to birds leading a flock is apparently boldness). Field experiments with birds have now answered the critique that observing these distinct traits in different individuals might be due to the captive environment of laboratory behavioral studies. Researchers have identified:
...hotheads and tiptoers, schmoozers and loners, divas, dullards and fearless explorers.. animals, like us, often cling to the same personality for the bulk of their lives...highly sensitive, arty-type humans have a lot in common with squealing pigs and twitchy mice, and that to call a hypersensitive person thin-skinned or touchy might hold a grain of physical truth.

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