Personality traits change after an opportunity to mate

Chloé Monestier, Alison M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

There is growing evidence that personality traits can change throughout the life course in humans and nonhuman animals. However, the proximate and ultimate causes of personality trait change are largely unknown, especially in adults. In a controlled, longitudinal experiment, we tested whether a key life event for adults––mating––can cause personality traits to change in female threespine sticklebacks. We confirmed that there are consistent individual differences in activity, sociability and risk-taking, and then compared these personality traits among three groups of females: (i) control females; (ii) females that had physically mated, and (iii) females that had socially experienced courtship but did not mate. Both the physical experience of mating and the social experience of courtship caused females to become less willing to take risks and less social. To understand the proximate mechanisms underlying these changes, we measured levels of excreted steroids. Both the physical experience of mating and the social experience of courtship caused levels of dihydroxyprogesterone (17α,20β-P) to increase, and females with higher 17α,20β-P were less willing to take risks and less social. These results provide experimental evidence that personality traits and their underlying neuroendocrine correlates are influenced by formative social and life-history experiences well into adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20192936
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume287
Issue number1926
DOIs
StatePublished - May 13 2020

Keywords

  • Hormones
  • Mating
  • Personality
  • Sticklebacks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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