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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: January 2011

3 - Animal cognition and human personality


Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST) is based, both in terms of data and concepts, on the experimental analysis of (non-human) animal behaviour. Some workers in emotion and human personality research question its validity on this count alone. But, since Galileo and Copernicus, our world has clearly not been the centre of the wider universe. Likewise, since Darwin, biology has accepted the essential continuity between our own and other species (with chimpanzees, genetically speaking, being 98 per cent human), where the human form and characters have not been the goal of evolution. In this chapter we evaluate the claim that emotion and personality, nonetheless, remain distinct from the rest of biology; that with them it is still the case that ‘the only proper study of mankind is man’. This will clarify the foundations on which RST rests.

Emotion and personality can be approached from more ‘cognitive’ (e.g., Matthews, chapter 17) or ‘biological’ (McNaughton and Corr, chapter 1) perspectives. But these are really different sides of the same coin. There are cases where cognitive or biological factors may seem relatively more important. But both kinds of case exist. This requires a true theoretical and empirical integration to take a combined ‘biocognitive’ perspective. Each approach fills the gaps left by the other. Their combination leads to a richer picture and a deeper understanding.

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