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The Science of Animal Personalities

Photo by Andrew Morffew, CC via Flickr


Serious researchers long shied away from so-called anthropomorphism. But biologist John Shivik says animal personalities and emotion are key to understanding how species evolved. So why are some animals shy and others ornery?

RadioWest divider.

Most pet owners would say it’s obvious that animals have emotions and personalities, but it’s a question researchers have long disregarded as sentimental anthropomorphism. That’s changing though, and Utah biologist John Shivik has written a book that explores how wildlife and domesticated animals have evolved traits like shyness, charisma, or orneriness to adapt to the world around them. It’s called “Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes,” and Shivik joins us to talk about it.

  • John Shivik is a biologist who has worked as a federal researcher and wildlife manager and as state predator biologist. He's the author of The Predator Paradox[Indie bookstores|Amazon] and his new book Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes: The Science of Animal Personalities. [Indie bookstores|Amazon|Audible]
Doug Fabrizio has been reporting for KUER News since 1987, and became News Director in 1993. In 2001, he became host and executive producer of KUER's RadioWest, a one hour conversation/call-in show on KUER 90.1 in Salt Lake City. He has gained a reputation for his thoughtful style. He has interviewed everyone from Isabel Allende to the Dalai Lama, and from Madeleine Albright to Desmond Tutu. His interview skills landed him a spot as a guest host of the national NPR program, "Talk of the Nation." He has won numerous awards for his reporting and for his work with RadioWest and KUED's Utah NOW from such organizations as the Society of Professional Journalists, the Utah Broadcasters Association, the Public Radio News Directors Association and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
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