From mice to men: what can we learn about personality from animal research?

Psychol Bull. 2001 Jan;127(1):45-86. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.127.1.45.


The author explores the viability of a comparative approach to personality research. A review of the diverse animal-personality literature suggests that (a) most research uses trait constructs, focuses on variation within (vs. across) species, and uses either behavioral codings or trait ratings; (b) ratings are generally reliable and show some validity (7 parameters that could influence reliability and 4 challenges to validation are discussed); and (c) some dimensions emerge across species, but summaries are hindered by a lack of standard descriptors. Arguments for and against cross-species comparisons are discussed, and research guidelines are suggested. Finally, a research agenda guided by evolutionary and ecological principles is proposed. It is concluded that animal studies provide unique opportunities to examine biological, genetic, and environmental bases of personality and to study personality change, personality-health links, and personality perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Personality*
  • Psychology, Comparative / trends*
  • Research Design
  • Species Specificity