24 August 2017
Conscientiousness is a fundamental aspect of human personality, with higher levels associated with all kinds of benefits, from greater academic achievement and relationship stability to living for longer.
Yet it’s the only major human personality dimension not to have been widely identified in animals, which poses an evolutionary puzzle – if animals don’t show signs of conscientiousness, where did the human variety come from?
But now a major review of hundreds of relevant papers, published in Psychological Bulletin, concludes that in fact, “there are many documented examples of conscientiousness behaviour in other animals”.
The work also suggests that there are two main branches to conscientiousness, each associated with an evolutionary drive to solve different types of problems.
Before this new research, the only clear evidence for animal conscientiousness was a study of chimpanzees and a report of aspects of conscientiousness in a group of captive orangutans. Based on this limited data, some researchers suggested that conscientiousness evolved after the last common ancestor of chimps and humans diverged from other ape species, 7 to 10 million years ago.
Read more on our Research Digest blog.