Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 163–173 | Cite as

Network position: a key component in the characterization of social personality types

  • Alexander D. M. WilsonEmail author
  • Stefan Krause
  • Niels J. Dingemanse
  • Jens Krause


In recent years, animal social interactions have received much attention in terms of personality research (e.g. aggressive or cooperative interactions). However, other components of social behaviour such as those describing the intensity, frequency, directedness and individual repeatability of interactions in animal groups have largely been neglected. Network analysis offers a valuable opportunity to characterize individual consistency of traits in labile social groups and therein provide novel insights to personality research in ways previously not possible using traditional techniques. Should individual network positions be consistently different between individuals under changing conditions, they might reflect expressions of an individual's personality. Here, we discuss a conceptual framework for using network analyses to infer the presence of individual differences and present a statistical test based on randomization techniques for testing the consistency of network positions in individuals. The statistical tools presented are useful because if particular individuals consistently occupy key positions in social networks, then this is also likely to have consequences for their fitness as well as for that of others in the population. These consequences may be particularly significant since individual network position has been shown to be important for the transmission of diseases, socially learnt information and genetic material between individuals and populations.


Social network analysis Behavioural types Temperament 



We would like to thank Max Wolf and Dick James for helpful discussions and suggestions for the manuscript. ADMW was supported by a postdoctoral research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt foundation. NJD was supported by the Max Planck Society. We would also like to thank Darren Croft and two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander D. M. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan Krause
    • 3
  • Niels J. Dingemanse
    • 4
    • 5
  • Jens Krause
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of the Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Humboldt UniversityBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceLübeck University of Applied SciencesLübeckGermany
  4. 4.Behavioural Ecology, Department of Biology IILudwig-Maximilians-University of MunichMunichGermany
  5. 5.Evolutionary Ecology of Variation GroupMax Planck Institute for OrnithologySeewiesenGermany

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