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Dolphins Have Similar Personality Traits to Humans, Study Finds


If you’ve ever looked at the face of a dolphin and felt for a second that they knew who you were, it’s because they are naturally curious and sociable in a similar way to humans.

In a study of personality psychology, bottlenose dolphins were found to have similar characteristics to both primates and humans (as well as some others that appear to be their own), shedding new light on the evolutionary pressures that develop the personality.

When not referring to large African mammals, the ‘big 5’ refer to broad personality traits that tend to be shared by most intelligent animals and are defined as openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extroversion, and kindness.

The Big 5 have been studied in chimpanzees, rats, and now dolphins, and all creatures on Earth have some variation of these traits, with some having more demonstrative versions than others.

In the recent study on dolphins, published in Journal of Comparative Psychology, the researchers observed 134 different dolphins at eight different facilities around the world. Personality was measured in 49 dolphins using a 42-item questionnaire, and in 85 dolphins using a version of the questionnaire that included seven additional items.

The questionnaires determined four personality traits, three of which are typical of human and non-human primates: high openness (broadly defined as creativity or curiosity), low friendliness (failure to prioritize the happiness of others over one’s own) and high extraversion (sociability).

Traits like this are often discussed in clinical psychology. Personality psychologists like Jordan Peterson would note that low kindness, found in dolphins, for example, is typical of people asking for big raises at work, while someone with high kindness often has difficulty climbing stairs. corporate.

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The fourth, which the scientists described as “direction,” was unique to dolphins and appeared to be a mix of high consciousness, a trait that tends to be high in people like entrepreneurs, and low neuroticism.

Lastly, unlike other primates but very much like humans, dolphins lacked strong dominance.

Researchers aren’t sure why the Big 5 evolved, and extending their field of study to more and more animals will help evolutionary psychologists determine how far back in the evolutionary trajectory such traits developed.

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Dolphins separated from other mammals 95 million years ago, allowing evolutionary psychologists to place the application of the five great personalities at least that far back. Now they also know that the evolution of these characteristics can occur despite great environmental differences, such as living on land or in water, and in social organization.

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