Shyness and boldness in humans and other animals

David Sloan Wilson, Anne B. Clark, Kristine Coleman, Ted Dearstyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

804 Scopus citations


The shy-bold continuum is a fundamental axis of behavioral variation in humans and at least some other species, but its taxonomic distribution and evolutionary implications are unknown. Models of optimal risk, density- or frequency-dependent selection, and phenotypic plasticity can provide a theoretical framework for understanding shyness and boldness as a product of natural selection. We sketch this framework and review the few empirical studies of shyness and boldness in natural populations. The study of shyness and boldness adds an interesting new dimension to behavioral ecology by focusing on the nature of continuous behavioral variation that exists within the familiar categories of age, sex and size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-446
Number of pages5
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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