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Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and Its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality

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Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and Its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality

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Over a series of 7 studies that used diverse samples and measures, this research identified a unidimensional core variable of high sensory-processing sensitivity and demonstrated its partial independence from social introversion and emotionality, variables with which it had been confused or subsumed in most previous theorizing by personality researchers. Additional findings were that there appear to be 2 distinct clusters of highly sensitive individuals (a smaller group with an unhappy childhood and related variables, and a larger group similar to nonhighly sensitive individuals except for their sensitivity) and that sensitivity moderates, at least for men; the relation of parental environment to reporting having had an unhappy childhood. This research also demonstrated adequate reliability and content, convergent, and discriminant validity for a 27-item Highly Sensitive Person Scale.
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... Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) (Aron and Aron 1997) is proposed to be a normal phenotype trait observable as a high degree of environmental sensitivity (Pluess 2015). It is unrelated to sensory processing disorder. ...
... In humans, this increased sensitivity compared to the general population is hypothesized to result from a greater depth of processing of sensory input, e.g., using many cognitive tags (Aron and Aron 1997;Aron et al. 2012). Lockhart et al. (1976) suggested that memory is enhanced by processing information to deeper cognitive levels using a letter, word, word in context, or word abstracted from many contexts, a concept important to educational methodology (Leow 2018). ...
... The questionnaire measure for SPS used in previous studies is called the HSP or Highly Sensitive Person Scale (Aron and Aron 1997). The YA-HCP testing does not include the HSP Scale and it was not feasible to re-contact participants to administer it. ...
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Previous research using functional MRI identified brain regions associated with sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a proposed normal phenotype trait. To further validate SPS, to characterize it anatomically, and to test the usefulness in psychology of methodologies that assess axonal properties, the present study correlated SPS proxy questionnaire scores (adjusted for neuroticism) with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures. Participants ( n = 408) from the Human Connectome Project were studied. Voxelwise analysis showed that mean- and radial diffusivity correlated positively with SPS scores in the right and left subcallosal and anterior–ventral cingulum bundle, and the right forceps minor of the corpus callosum, all frontal cortex areas generally underlying emotion, motivation, and cognition. Further analyses showed correlations throughout medial frontal cortical regions in the right and left ventromedial prefrontal cortex, including the superior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, uncinate, and arcuate fasciculus. Fractional anisotropy was negatively correlated with SPS scores in white matter (WM) of the right premotor/motor/somatosensory/supramarginal gyrus regions. Region of interest (ROI) analysis showed small effect sizes (− 0.165 to 0.148) in WM of the precuneus and inferior frontal gyrus. Other ROI effects were found in the dorsal-, ventral visual pathways and primary auditory cortex. The results reveal that in a large group of participants, axonal microarchitectural differences can be identified with SPS traits that are subtle and in the range of typical behavior. The results suggest that the heightened sensory processing in people who show that SPS may be influenced by the microstructure of WM in specific cortical regions. Although previous fMRI studies had identified most of these areas, the DTI results put a new focus on brain areas related to attention and cognitive flexibility, empathy, emotion, and first levels of sensory processing, as in primary auditory cortex. Psychological trait characterization may benefit from DTI methodology by identifying influential brain systems for traits.
... As mentioned previously, SPS is a relatively stable trait that reflects the individuals' sensitivity to environmental influences and is characterized by deep cognitive processing of environmental stimuli, strong emotional and physiological reactivity, easy notice of subtle changes in the environment, and elevated awareness of sensory stimulation [8,9]. Individuals with high SPS tend to be more aware of information in their environment, and process this information on a deeper and more complex level than other people. ...
... SPS has been regarded as a more proximal marker of susceptibility [8,9,51]. Research on the Differential Susceptibility Model [39] demonstrates that greater sensitivity leads to more vulnerability to negative environments and greater vantage sensitivity in positive environments, and postulates that children differ in their general susceptibility to environmental influences with some being more affected than others by both adverse and supportive environments [43,52]. ...
... These findings are consistent with the notions of the Differential Susceptibility Model [39] and Biological Sensitivity to Context Theory [40,41]. The interaction pattern demonstrated that the effect of parenting provided further support that SPS could also be regarded as a potential susceptibility marker [8,9]. Specifically, high SPS preschoolers with the A allele exhibited fewer internalizing problems under condition of higher authoritative parenting while they exhibited more internalizing problems under the condition of lower authoritative parenting. ...
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The present study aimed to examine how CRHBP rs10062367 polymorphism interacted with parenting styles and sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) to impact on preschoolers’ internalizing problems. A total of 446 preschoolers (Mage = 4.55, SD = 1.07) participated in the study and their saliva were extracted to genotype the CRHBP rs10062367 polymorphism, and their parents were invited to complete a battery of questionnaires to assess parenting styles, preschoolers’ SPS, and internalizing problems. Results indicated that high SPS preschoolers with A allele exhibited fewer internalizing problems under the condition of positive parenting while they exhibited more internalizing problems under the condition of negative parenting. The findings provide support for the Differential Susceptibility Model/Biological Sensitivity to Context Theory that A allele of rs10062367 and high SPS might be the “susceptibility markers” of children to environments.
... Additionally, a temperament trait that has been associated with both perception and paranormal belief/experiences is sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS), characterised by an increased sensitivity to the environment and an enhanced, deeper processing of stimuli, sensory information, and emotions. To describe individuals who experience high SPS, Aron [17] devised the term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), and the Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS) was developed to measure SPS by Aron and Aron [18]. This questionnaire measures aspects of behaviour and perceptual experiences associated with being a HSP, such as being sensitive to caffeine, becoming overwhelmed by large levels of sensory input, and being perceived as sensitive or shy. ...
... Although Aron and Aron [18] intended for the HSPS to be a unidimensional measure of SPS, there is conflicting research suggesting its multi-dimensionality. Smolewska, McCabe, and Woody [29] proposed there were three subscales of the HSPS. The first, Ease of Excitation (EOE), suggests a vulnerability to becoming mentally overwhelmed by external stimuli. ...
... To measure SPS, the Highly Sensitive Person Scale [18] (HSPS; Cronbach's alpha = .85) was used, which asks about the sensory experiences of the individual. ...
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This investigation tested the effect of priming on pareidolia (the hearing of illusory words in ambiguous stimuli). Participants (41 women, 20 men, mean age 29.95 years) were assigned to primed (n = 30) or unprimed (n = 31) groups: the former were told the study was of ‘purported ghosts voices’, the latter ‘voices in noisy environments.’ Participants were assessed for perception of human voices within recordings of purported electronic voice phenomena (EVP), degraded human speech, normal human speech, and white noise. The primed group had significantly higher perception of voices within EVPs than in degraded speech, this difference was not found for unprimed participants. In contrast to the previous use of this design, the primed group did not have higher perception of voices in EVPs and degraded speech than did the unprimed group. The Aesthetic Sensitivity dimension of the Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS) was associated with detection of degraded stimuli, but not with accuracy of stimulus identification. HSPS score was related to lifetime reporting of anomalous and paranormal experiences. This study partially replicates a paranormal priming effect and shows relationships between HSPS and detection of ambiguous stimuli and anomalous and paranormal experiences.
... The early work looked at SPS as it related to physical health and other personality traits. After developing the HSPS, Aron and Aron (1997) researched the relationships between introversion, emotionality, and SPS. Benham (2006) then expanded the scope of studies to the relationship between SPS, stress, and ill physical health symptoms. ...
... The current literature on the HSP has focused its analysis of the interaction between SPS and gender (Aron and Aron 1997) and sex (Licht et al. 2020), and while the purported results differ from the nineteenth-century medical claims, the language around gender and sex is still problematic. Unlike the literature on the pre-disposed hysterical woman, the current literature on SPS and HSPs claims that there is no gender indicator for HSP and that no gender is genetically predisposed to be sensitive (Buss 1989;Rothbart 1989;Aron and Aron 1997). ...
... The current literature on the HSP has focused its analysis of the interaction between SPS and gender (Aron and Aron 1997) and sex (Licht et al. 2020), and while the purported results differ from the nineteenth-century medical claims, the language around gender and sex is still problematic. Unlike the literature on the pre-disposed hysterical woman, the current literature on SPS and HSPs claims that there is no gender indicator for HSP and that no gender is genetically predisposed to be sensitive (Buss 1989;Rothbart 1989;Aron and Aron 1997). The studies consistently indicate that "there were no significant differences between the genders in the overall correlations of the HSP Scale with other variables or in the composition of the two HSP clusters" (Aron and Aron 1997, 356). ...
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This paper examines twenty-first-century research on sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) alongside mid-nineteenth-century research on hysteria. Doing so sheds light on how we have long thought of sensorial-emotional experience as progressing along a medical narrative from cause to cure. Today’s rhetoric around the highly sensitive person (HSP) begins to diverge from the rhetoric around hysteria through the theorized cause and the dismissal of the need for a cure. When current perspectives remove the emphasis on a cure, the narrative emphasizes a broader need for social-emotional learning and cultural revision to stigma around sensitivity.
... In their seminal work, Aron and Aron (1997) introduced the concept of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) which is an individual characteristic describing increased perception and procession of inner or outer stimuli. They found that-although related-SPS was not to be confused with other personality traits like introversion or neuroticism (see also Konrad & Herzberg, 2017). ...
... TL was measured as previously described (Gielen et al., 2014). In brief, TL was determined using a monochrome multiplex quantitative PCR (q-PCR) method, using 384 multiwell plates (Roche, Switzerland) that were run on a LightCycler 480 machine (Cawthon, 2009 Aron and Aron (1997) as a unidimensional score to measure SPS. ...
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Background In the present study, we investigated the association between sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) and telomere length (TL), which is considered a biomarker of cellular aging. SPS is an individual characteristic describing increased perception and procession of inner or outer stimuli, and is positively related to self‐perceived stress. Methods We recruited 82 healthy adolescents aged 13–16 from secondary schools in Germany. SPS was measured with the Highly Sensitive Person Scale, and TL was determined by a multiplex quantitative PCR method. Results Our results show that students with higher values of SPS are likely to have shorter telomeres (β = 0.337, p = .001), when adjusting for sex, socioeconomic status, age, and body mass index. These findings are also independent of the negative impact of stress students might have perceived shortly before data collection. Conclusions Our analysis suggests that students who struggle with low sensory threshold are likely to have shorter telomeres.
... Bununla beraber duyusal duyarlılığın duygusallık ve sosyal içe dönüklük ile bağlantılı olduğu fakat onlarla aynı anlamı ifade etmediği ileri sürülmektedir (Aron ve Aron, 1997 determined that the students felt more anxious about the future as the satisfaction with the department they read decreased. Students whose foreign language(s) are suitable for living abroad have a higher belief that they will reach the career they want in the future. ...
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Very few studies have investigated the relationship between sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) and interpersonal variables; none has particularly focused on romantic relationship satisfaction. In the context of romantic relationships, this study aimed to identify whether SPS is a risk factor (hypothesizing that traits make individuals more vulnerable to the effects of adverse environments) or a susceptibility marker (hypothesizing that traits make individuals more susceptible to the effects of both nourishing and adverse environments). To understand this, we tested whether an increased level of SPS is associated with a decreased level of romantic relationship satisfaction through negative affectivity and conflict resolution styles. Furthermore, we tested whether these proposed relationships intensified when the childhood environment was negative. A total of 206 unmarried young adults who had been in a romantic relationship for at least two years completed the measures of SPS, childhood environment, negative affectivity, conflict resolution styles, and relationship satisfaction. The results indicated that negative affectivity and negative conflict resolution styles mediated the association between SPS and satisfaction in a relationship; however, childhood environment did not moderate these relationships. These findings suggest that beyond childhood factors, SPS is an independent risk factor for developing negative outcomes in romantic relationships. This study also significantly contributes to the literature by revealing the possible mechanisms between SPS and romantic relationship satisfaction.
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Mental disorders affect 29% of world population and, alarmingly, 50% of these are established before the age of 14 years. Common and severe mental disorders are associated with deficits in sensory information processing at preadolescence, especially in males. Evidence points to prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE) has as a predictive risk factor for adverse neurodevelopmental child outcomes, particularly those associated to alterations of dopaminergic signaling. In this chapter, we examine the impact of PCE on mesolimbic dopamine system function and provide compelling data for how it confers to males only a hyperdopaminergic state related to an endophenotype at-risk for sensory information processing deficits, when flagged by developmental challenges (e.g., cannabis use, acute stress). Deciphering the mechanisms implicated in such a sex-dichotomy is paramount to inform novel sex-specific and age-tailored therapies for sensory information processing deficits, a cross-disorder trait typical of common and many severe mental illnesses (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, OCD, and schizophrenia).
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Sensory processing sensitivity is an individual difference that captures the extent to which people show heightened emotional reactivity to, and increased cognitive processing of, their environment. Although central to its definition, there has been no research examining whether highly sensitive individuals display stronger reactivity to naturally occurring negative and positive events in everyday life. We addressed this gap by carrying out a 21-day online diary study with 239 participants, varying in sensory processing sensitivity, who reported their daily life-satisfaction, affective experiences, and self-esteem along with appraisals of the most negative and positive events of the day. Multilevel analyses demonstrated that individuals higher in sensory processing sensitivity showed greater reactivity to more subjectively intense negative events, but no difference in their reactivity to positive events. These findings provide initial insights into how sensory processing sensitivity manifests in daily emotional reactivity with greater reactivity to negative events in our study.
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Purpose As humans convey information about emotions by speech signals, emotion recognition via auditory information is often employed to assess one’s affective states. There are numerous ways of applying the knowledge of emotional vocal expressions to system designs that accommodate users’ needs adequately. Yet, little is known about how people with visual disabilities infer emotions from speech stimuli, especially via online platforms (e.g., Zoom). This study focussed on examining the degree to which they perceive emotions strongly or weakly, i.e., perceived intensity but also investigating the degree to which their sociodemographic backgrounds affect them perceiving different intensity levels of emotions when exposed to a set of emotional speech stimuli via Zoom. Materials and methods A convenience sample of 30 individuals with visual disabilities participated in zoom interviews. Participants were given a set of emotional speech stimuli and reported the intensity level of the perceived emotions on a rating scale from 1 (weak) to 8 (strong). Results When the participants were exposed to the emotional speech stimuli, calm, happy, fearful, sad, and neutral, they reported that neutral was the dominant emotion they perceived with the greatest intensity. Individual differences were also observed in the perceived intensity of emotions, associated with sociodemographic backgrounds, such as health, vision, job, and age. Conclusions The results of this study are anticipated to contribute to the fundamental knowledge that will be helpful for many stakeholders such as voice technology engineers, user experience designers, health professionals, and social workers providing support to people with visual disabilities. • IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION • Technologies equipped with alternative user interfaces (e.g., Siri, Alexa, and Google Voice Assistant) meeting the needs of people with visual disabilities can promote independent living and quality of life. • Such technologies can also be equipped with systems that can recognize emotions via users’ voice, such that users can obtain services customized to fit their emotional needs or adequately address their emotional challenges (e.g., early detection of onset, provision of advice, and so on). • The results of this study can be beneficial to health professionals (e.g., social workers) who work closely with clients who have visual disabilities (e.g., virtual telehealth sessions) as they could gain insights or learn how to recognize and understand the clients’ emotional struggle by hearing their voice, which is contributing to enhancement of emotional intelligence. Thus, they can provide better services to their clients, leading to building a strong bond and trust between health professionals and clients with visual disabilities even they meet virtually (e.g., Zoom).
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An experimental misattribution paradigm proved to be a significant intervention treatment of altering social participation among 14 dispositionally shy undergraduate women. When specific arousal symptoms previously associated with their social anxiety were misattributed to a nonpsychological source (high-frequency noise), Ss behaved as if they were not shy. Their verbal fluency and interactional assertiveness resembled that of 16 not-shy Ss given the same treatment. Moreover, their scores on these measures were significantly elevated from the low levels recorded by 15 shy controls who had been led to expect shyness-irrelevant "side effects" from their exposure to noise. A male partner (a confederate) accurately perceived whether or not Ss in the 2 control groups were shy, but he misjudged as "not shy" the shy Ss in the misattribution group. The greater enjoyment of the interaction by those in this latter group, despite high-frequency noise bombardment, was also reflected in their stronger preference for further affiliation than that shown by either comparison group. The continuously monitored heart rate data provide grounds for speculation as to the relationship of physiological arousal and behavior. However, a paradoxical placebo finding emerged when it appeared that not-shy Ss in this same misattribution condition experienced a higher level of arousal, and this anxiety-like arousal was associated with preferences for nonaffiliation. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
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Ophthalmographic determination was made under 5 tone intensities. Analysis of variance showed significant results for personality, task-complexity and their interaction, and intensity. Effects of personality and intensity were independent in visual tracking (not sensitivity), suggesting a difference between peripheral and central phenomena. Simple fixation deteriorated under each intensity in introverts, but improved in extraverts. In ambiverts, it improved under medium intensity only. Complex tracking improved under most intensities in introverts only. Introverts' fixation was inferior to ambiverts and extraverts at all intensities, while complex tracking was superior to extraverts. Significant correlations indicated: the more extraverted the S, the greater the improvement in simple fixation; the more introverted the S, the greater the improvement in complex tracking. Results supported the proposed hypotheses. © 1974, The Japanese Psychological Association. All rights reserved.
Article
Visual thresholds were determined in 3 types of S by a modified method of limits under 5 intensities of a 1 KHz pure tone. An analysis of variance of the data showed significant results for personality group and its interaction with intensity conditions. Under medium and strong intensities of tone, visual sensitivity “decreased” in introverts, and “increased” in extraverts with a greater increase at strong than medium intensities. In ambiverts it increased under strong intensity only.Non-significance of the intensity effect suggested visual dominance over auditory stimulation.Significant correlations between EPI E (but not N) scale scores and sensitivity change indicated the more extraverted the S is, the greater the increase in visual sensitivity. The results supported the proposed hypotheses. © 1973, The Japanese Psychological Association. All rights reserved.
Chapter
Some concept of arousability is central to several current theories of individual differences. Notable instances are the concepts of subjective augmentation versus reduction of stimulus intensities (Petrie, 1967), introversion-extraversion (Eysenck, 1967), reactivity (Strelau, 1983), and strength of the nervous system (Nebylistyn, 1972a). Several authors have noted the conceptual similarities among some or all of these theoretical constructs (e. g. Barnes, 1976; Davis, Cowles, & Kohn, 1983; Eysenck, 1981; Gray, 1967; Strelau, 1982). Accordingly, the term, arousability, will be used generically here when referring to common properties of these constructs or measures thereof.
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Prior research has shown shyness to be related to concern about evaluations or possible evaluations by others (Schlenker & Leary, 1982; Zimbardo, 1977), discomfort and inhibition in the presence of others (Cheek & Buss, 1981), diffidence about entering into social interaction (Pilkonis, 1977), and exaggerated self-scrutiny and self-appraisal (Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975; Leary, 1982). Small wonder that shyness is typically viewed as a problem or deficit to be overcome (Zimbardo & Radl, 1981), and as a barrier preventing individuals from demonstrating their true worth in dealings with others (Leary & Schlenker, 1981). Even from this very brief formulation, it seems clear that research investigations of shyness may profitably address two themes, (a) assessment of the inner or self-view of oneself as shy, and (b) analyses of reactions of others to determine whether such responses have the negative tone feared and expected by the shy person.
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The development of social behavior by rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) has attracted the interest of numerous investigators over the past 2 decades. Researchers have watched rhesus monkey infants grow up in many different physical and social settings, including feral environments within the Indian subcontinent (Lindburg, 1973; Taylor et al., 1980), outdoor enclosures containing social groups similar in composition to those found in the wild (Sade, 1967; Berman, 1978), and a variety of laboratory environments in which access to social stimuli is under rigorous experimental control (Hansen, 1966; Hinde and Spencer-Booth, 1967; Dienske and Metz, 1977). In general, it has been found that if rhesus monkeys are reared under conditions of severe social deprivation obvious psychopathology will result, but if they are reared in social environments that contain their mothersand access to peers they will most likely develop behavioral repertoires highly similar to those displayed by rhesus monkeys reared in natural habitats (Harlow and Harlow, 1969; Suomi and Harlow, 1978). Indeed, monkeys reared in socially “adequate” laboratory environments follow the same general ontogenic schedule, in terms of the timing and sequence of emergence of specific patterns of behavior, as do rhesus monkeys who grow up in the wild (Rosenblum 1971; Suomi, 1977).