New Study Finds Dolphins Have Personality Traits Very Similar to Humans

They share our curiosity and sociability.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Dolphins are adorable, playful, and quite interactive. Now, a new study is revealing the animals are also actually quite similar to humans.

Research that began in 2012 and evaluated 134 male and female bottlenose dolphins from eight facilities across the world found they had several traits very similar to humans, particularly curiosity and sociability. 

This led researchers to wonder how these similarities could have come about when dolphins and humans have been evolving in such different habitats.

“Dolphins were a great animal for this kind of study because, like primates, dolphins are intelligent and social. We reasoned that if factors such as intelligence and gregariousness contribute to personality, then dolphins should have similar personality traits to primates," told The Guardian Dr. Blake Morton, a psychology lecturer at the University of Hull and the lead author of the study.

“Dolphins, like many primates, have brains that are considerably larger than what their bodies require for basic bodily functions; this excess of brain matter essentially powers their ability to be intelligent, and intelligent species are often very curious.”

Morton based his research on five traits that are believed to form the basis of human personality. These are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Morton was also quick to emphasize that the personalities of humans and dolphins were not an exact match. Instead, they simply had some similar traits.

“I don’t want people to misinterpret that and say humans and dolphins have the same personality traits – they don’t. It’s just that some of them are similar,” he added.

He explained that it's still not fully understood why human behavior comes down to those five traits. One way to seek to understand that is by studying animals.

“Most research has been done on primates so we decided to do something different and look at dolphins. No one’s ever studied personality in dolphins before in the way we have," concluded Morton.

The study was published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology.

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