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Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Many animals change their personality to adapt to a particular social niche.

flock of cowbirds

Photo: Tim Lenz (Flickr)

Female cowbirds maintain constant personalities by hanging out only with females that have similar personalities.

Personalities In Flux

Isn’t it interesting how some people’s personalities are extremely constant while others change based on the situation?

This phenomenon is so common that scientists have found it across several animal species, including spiders and birds.

Some spider personalities are more constant than others, and social niches are thought to affect personality consistencies and shifts.

Social niches depict the social aspects of species environment relationships: Your friends, family and coworkers influence you just as much as other environmental factors.

Adapting to One’s Environment

For example, when you hang out with comedic friends, they may be more likely to bring out your funny side.

Similarly, male cowbirds have been found to change their personalities based on their social surroundings, while females maintain constant personalities by hanging out only with females with similar personalities, forming these social niches.

These social niches are formed because they provide predictability, which is generally comforting. It’s the same reason ecological niches are formed—to predictably navigate food and predation.

And just like ecological niches and species, social niches and personalities are mutually influential.

Read More:

“Evidence of Social Niche Construction: Persistent and Repeated Social Interactions Generate Stronger Personalities in a Social Spider” (The Royal Society)

“Social Niches and Sex Assortment: Uncovering the Developmental Ecology of Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Molothrus Ater” (Animal Behaviour)

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