Behavioural syndromes and social insects: Personality at multiple levels

Jennifer M. Jandt, Sarah Bengston, Noa Pinter-Wollman, Jonathan N. Pruitt, Nigel E. Raine, Anna Dornhaus, Andrew Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations


Animal personalities or behavioural syndromes are consistent and/or correlated behaviours across two or more situations within a population. Social insect biologists have measured consistent individual variation in behaviour within and across colonies for decades. The goal of this review is to illustrate the ways in which both the study of social insects and of behavioural syndromes has overlapped, and to highlight ways in which both fields can move forward through the synergy of knowledge from each. Here we, (i) review work to date on behavioural syndromes (though not always referred to as such) in social insects, and discuss mechanisms and fitness effects of maintaining individual behavioural variation within and between colonies; (ii) summarise approaches and principles from studies of behavioural syndromes, such as trade-offs, feedback, and statistical methods developed specifically to study behavioural consistencies and correlations, and discuss how they might be applied specifically to the study of social insects; (iii) discuss how the study of social insects can enhance our understanding of behavioural syndromes-research in behavioural syndromes is beginning to explore the role of sociality in maintaining or developing behavioural types, and work on social insects can provide new insights in this area; and (iv) suggest future directions for study, with an emphasis on examining behavioural types at multiple levels of organisation (genes, individuals, colonies, or groups of individuals).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-67
Number of pages20
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Behavioral syndromes
  • Behavioural carryover
  • Behavioural consistency
  • Behavioural types
  • Levels of organisation
  • Repeatability
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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