Phenotypic correlations capture between-individual correlations underlying behavioral syndromes

Plot ofthe between-individual correlation against the phenotypic correlation.


The presence of variation in behavior on the between-individual level is considered the hallmark of personality. In contrast, behavioral syndromes are commonly recognized when documented on the phenotypic level, which is a mix of between-individual and residual (within-individual) correlations. Phenotypic and between-individual correlations need not align, and investigations on different levels of the same syndrome may hence lead to opposite inferences. Between-individual correlations, arguably, provide stronger evidence for an intrinsically determined behavioral syndrome than phenotypic correlations. We compiled 109 literature estimates of between-individual and phenotypic correlations between behaviors from 30 studies, performed on 22 species covering a wide range of taxa. Contrary to our expectation, the phenotypic correlation in behaviors was, on average, a reasonable predictor of the between-individual correlation in terms of magnitude and sign. Although our finding does not warrant the use of the phenotypic correlation as a suitable approximation of the between-individual correlation for any particular study, it does suggest that the phenotypic correlations used to infer the majority of behavioral syndromes to date have provided a reasonable characterization of syndrome associative strength.

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71(3) 1-8
Barbara Class
Barbara Class

I am a researcher interested in among-individual differences in wild vertebrate populations.