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Journal Articles PLoS ONE Year : 2011

Does work affect personality? A study in horses

Martine Hausberger
Christophe Lunel
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It has been repeatedly hypothesized that job characteristics are related to changes in personality in humans, but often personality models still omit effects of life experience. Demonstrating reciprocal relationships between personality and work remains a challenge though, as in humans, many other influential factors may interfere. This study investigates this relationship by comparing the emotional reactivity of horses that differed only by their type of work. Horses are remarkable animal models to investigate this question as they share with humans working activities and their potential difficulties, such as "interpersonal" conflicts or "suppressed emotions". An earlier study showed that different types of work could be associated with different chronic behavioural disorders. Here, we hypothesised that type of work would affect horses' personality. Therefore over one hundred adult horses, differing only by their work characteristics were presented standardised behavioural tests. Subjects lived under the same conditions (same housing, same food), were of the same sex (geldings), and mostly one of two breeds, and had not been genetically selected for their current type of work. This is to our knowledge the first time that a direct relationship between type of work and personality traits has been investigated. Our results show that horses from different types of work differ not as much in their overall emotional levels as in the ways they express emotions (i.e. behavioural profile). Extremes were dressage horses, which presented the highest excitation components, and voltige horses, which were the quietest. The horses' type of work was decided by the stall managers, mostly on their jumping abilities, but unconscious choice based on individual behavioural characteristics cannot be totally excluded. Further research would require manipulating type of work. Our results nevertheless agree with reports on humans and suggest that more attention should be given to work characteristics when evaluating personalities.
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hal-01022090 , version 1 (23-11-2017)



Martine Hausberger, Christine Müller, Christophe Lunel. Does work affect personality? A study in horses. PLoS ONE, 2011, 6 (2), pp.e14659. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0014659⟩. ⟨hal-01022090⟩
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