Personality types vary in their personal and social information use

Judith A.H. Smit, Kees van Oers (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Gathering information about the environment, such as the location and quality of food, is crucial for an animal's survival, particularly in a changing environment. An animal can collect ‘personal information’ by interacting with the environment itself, or it can collect ‘social information’ by observing the behaviour of others. The use of these two types of information varies across different situations and between individuals. Personality is a concept that captures consistent interindividual differences in behaviour and could be one of the factors driving interindividual variation in information use. We tested this by conducting behavioural experiments based on a colour association task in captive great tits, Parus major, originating from lines bidirectionally selected for high and low exploratory behaviour. We quantified personal information use by measuring to what extent a bird relied on previously rewarded options instead of novel options. Social information use was measured by recording how birds chose according to social information provided by video playbacks of a conspecific. Here, we demonstrate that variation in the use of both personal and social information is indeed personality related. In their decision making, slow explorers relied more on prior knowledge, from both personal and social origins, whereas fast explorers tended to ignore the available information and chose more randomly. The differences between the personality types imply different costs or constraints in acquiring and/or applying the two types of information, possibly due to variation in, for example, cognitive styles. In conclusion, we demonstrate that personality types have different strategies to cope with environmental uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • NIOO
  • personality
  • sampling behaviour
  • social information
  • video
  • personal information
  • Parus major


Dive into the research topics of 'Personality types vary in their personal and social information use'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this