The existence of 'animal personality', i.e. consistent individual differences in behaviour across time and contexts, is an evolutionary puzzle that has recently generated considerable research interest. Although social factors are generally considered to be important, it is as yet unclear how they might select for personality. Drawing from ecological niche theory, we explore how social conflict and alternative social options can be key factors in the evolution and development of consistent individual differences in behaviour. We discuss how animal personality research might benefit from insights into the study of alternative tactics and illustrate how selection can favour behavioural diversification and consistency due to fitness benefits resulting from conflict reduction among social partners.
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