Description: In the late 1990s, the idea of non-human animals having personality was treated with skepticism or even ridicule by the scientific community. But now, little more than a decade later, the topic is a well-established, vibrant area of research in such fields as behavioral ecology and applied ethology. Consistent individual differences in personality have been identified in numerous non-human species, ranging from octopuses and guppies to hyenas and chimpanzees. What brought about animal personality’s change in fortunes? And what promise does it hold for Anthrozoology and allied fields? This talk will summarize the major discoveries from the field looking at dog personality types, focusing on the challenges the field has faced and those that lie ahead. For example, questions about measurement have long dogged the field, with concerns focusing on three basic issues: (1) that dog personality types cannot be measured reliably in animals, (2) that the assessments are overly subjective, (3) that the methods required to obtain valid assessments are impractical. Using data from our studies of on spotted hyenas, dogs, chimpanzees, squid, and humans I address each concern and evaluate the viability of personality assessments in animals. Next, I shall discuss some major challenges that lie ahead. These include addressing concerns regarding anthropomorphism, determining the best level at which to conceptualize personality, the need to develop a common taxonomy for describing personality, the importance of construct validation, and integrating the ideas of variation within individuals and across the lifespan. Finally, I shall consider the implications of this work in science (e.g., understanding the genetic bases of personality) and applied settings (e.g., identifying dogs well suited to explosive-detection work).
Recorded: September, 2012