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Anim Behav. 2009 Apr 1;77(4):771-783.

The repeatability of behaviour: a meta-analysis.

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School of Integrative Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


There is increasing interest in individual differences in animal behaviour. Recent research now suggests that an individual's behaviour, once considered to be plastic, may be more predictable than previously thought. Here, we take advantage of the large number of studies that have estimated the repeatability of various behaviours to evaluate whether there is good evidence for consistent individual differences in behaviour and to answer some outstanding questions about possible factors that can influence repeatability. Specifically, we use meta-analysis to ask whether different types of behaviours were more repeatable than others, and if repeatability estimates depended on taxa, sex, age, field versus laboratory, the number of measures and the interval between measures. Some of the overall patterns that were revealed by this analysis were that repeatability estimates were higher in the field compared to the laboratory and repeatability was higher when the interval between observations was short. Mate preference behaviour was one of the best studied but least repeatable behaviours. Our findings prompt new insights into the relative flexibility of different types of behaviour and offer suggestions for the design and analysis of future research.


behavioural syndrome; coping style; courtship; individual difference; mate preference; personality; temperament

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