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Animal Personality


Note: The course Animal Personality alternates with the course Animal Cognition. The next Animal Cognition course will be given in 2020-2021.

Admission requirements

BSc in biology or related disciplines.

Contact information

Coordinator: dr. H. Slabbekoorn


The study of animal personality is one of the fastest-growing areas of research in behavioral biology. Researchers have demonstrated that individual animals, from invertebrates, fish and birds to monkeys and apes, behave in consistently different ways, meeting the criteria for what many define as personality.
One must consider the evolutionary processes that give rise to personality, the ecological correlates of personality differences, and the physiological mechanisms underlying personality variation to fully understand why personality exists. Consequently, the study of animal personality covers biological disciplines as diverse as ecology, genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, and psychology. The study species ranges from birds to fish and from mammals to insects, and may also include humans.
The aims of this seminar are to provide students with fundamental knowledge on natural variation in behavioral and physiological phenotypes and gain understanding about current insights and controversies in this trending topic through reading, presenting and discussing studies with empirical and theoretical approaches reported in publications from the primary literature.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
On completion of this module, students:

  • should have knowledge and understanding of contemporary findings and theories concerning interdisciplinary areas of animal personality.

  • are aware of and understand key debates within the study of animal personality.

Final qualifications:
Knowledge and understanding of the course book and selected contemporary primary literature and critical evaluation thereof.


Wednesday afternoons: 14.30-17.00 hrs during the period from 24 Feb – 22 May 2020.

Mode of instruction

For each meeting, participants will be asked to read and prepare one review and/or data article so that they can actively participate during discussions. In addition, per session there will be two student presentations on selected primary literature pertaining to the theme of the week. Each participant is expected to prepare one oral presentation plus a written summary, and to act once as a chairperson during a presentation and ensuing discussion of another person.

Assessment method

Participants will be evaluated based on the quality of their presentation and the summary, their performance as a chairperson, and the quality and quantity of their contribution to discussion sessions.


Handouts, instructions and literature lists and all general course information will be made available via the digital learning environment Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory reading: primary literature (to be announced on Blackboard)


Via USIS and enroll in Blackboard

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.

This course is designed for a maximum of 24 participants. Please register via Usis. Upon over-registration biology master students will be given priority. Participation in the pre-meeting is obligatory. Failure to appear and commit to a date for a presentation during the pre-meeting will vacate the participant’s place for students from the waiting list.