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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Importance of Considering Context in the Assessment of Personality Characteristics: Evidence from Ratings of Dolphin Personality


One of the tenets of personality is that an individual’s distinguishing behavioral characteristics arerelatively stable over time and across contexts. Both humans and animals demonstrate suchconsistency, at least for certain personality traits. However, the relative extent to which personality isstable is rarely addressed in studies of animal personality, the focus typically being on stability ratherthan its absence. Here we present data on dolphin personality that suggest dolphin behavior (andhence their personality characteristics) is influenced by context, the three contexts of concern herebeing interactions with the physical environment, interactions with humans, and interactions withother dolphins. Individuals differed in terms of the extent to which their behavior was ratedconsistently across the three contexts, suggesting that an important aspect of personality concerns therole of context in moderating individual predispositions.

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