Network position: a key component in the characterization of social personality types
In recent years, animal social interactions have received much attention in terms of personality research (e.g. aggressive or cooperative interactions). However, other components of social behaviour such as those describing the intensity, frequency, directedness and individual repeatability of interactions in animal groups have largely been neglected. Network analysis offers a valuable opportunity to characterize individual consistency of traits in labile social groups and therein provide novel insights to personality research in ways previously not possible using traditional techniques. Should individual network positions be consistently different between individuals under changing conditions, they might reflect expressions of an individual's personality. Here, we discuss a conceptual framework for using network analyses to infer the presence of individual differences and present a statistical test based on randomization techniques for testing the consistency of network positions in individuals. The statistical tools presented are useful because if particular individuals consistently occupy key positions in social networks, then this is also likely to have consequences for their fitness as well as for that of others in the population. These consequences may be particularly significant since individual network position has been shown to be important for the transmission of diseases, socially learnt information and genetic material between individuals and populations.