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How experience influences human and animal personality

Published on 24. September 2014, 11:23 h

Conference at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research

We are not born with a finished personality, and it seems as if animals aren’t either. A ‘reaction norm’ is what biologists call the interplay between environmental and genetic features that determines an individual and how an organism behaves over the course of development. It is within the framework of this reaction norm that behaviour changes over the couse of life. The flexibility this permits, scientists agree, represents a major pacemaker of evolution. From 29 September to 1 October, researchers will be meeting at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) to discuss how this flexibility leads to changes in various animal species including human beings and whether there are specific periods in life when this is particularly important. The international conference is entitled ‘New Perspectives in Behavioural Development: Adaptive Shaping of Behaviour over a Lifetime?’


Every living being goes through different experiences over the course of its life that influence its behaviour. ‘We assume that this behavioural plasticity is an adaptive process that influences behaviour not only during the individual life history but also across generations,’ says Fritz Trillmich, Professor of Behavioural Research at Bielefeld University. Together with colleagues from Münster and Osnabrück, he has invited a circle of approximately 60 ecologists, evolutionary scientist, neuroscientists, behavioural researchers, and psychologists from ten different countries to discuss how different living beings react to ecological and social factors and how reactions change over the course of these organisms’ lives. They will be looking at birds just as much as rabbits, macaques, and human beings. ‘We want to work out which rules underlie the evolution of reaction norms, what stages this process goes through between fertilization and death, how changes in behaviour influence fitness, and what happens in the body when such changes occur,’ explains Trillmich. By taking this approach, the researchers are extending a perspective that has been focusing for some time on the individual and the individual’s development rather than on statistical averages.

Media representatives are cordially invited to report on the conference.

The conference will be held in English

Conference dates:
Monday, 29 September, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, 30 September, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, 1 October, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Further information is available online at:

www.uni-bielefeld.de/ZIF/AG/2014/09-29-Trillmich.html

Contact for academic queries:
Prof. Dr. Fritz Trillmich, Bielefeld University
Faculty of Biology
Telephone: 0521 106-2706
Email: fritz.trillmich@uni-bielefeld.de

Contact for organisational queries:
Trixi Valentin, Bielefeld University
Center for Interdisciplinary Research
Telephone: 0521 106-2769
Email: trixi.valentin@uni-bielefeld.de

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