The Perks of Shyness: Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS)

Never heard of it? Well if you’re the shy, introverted type, you have most likely experienced it.

It’s a personality trait characterized by sensitivity to any kind of stimuli. Basically, people with SPS have an above-average ability to notice subtleties in their environment: they’re better at reading people, or noticing minute details in their surrounds. Studies have found that SPS and other closely related personality traits – such as behavioral inhibition and introversion – are correlated with greater awareness of subtle stimuli (including social and emotional cues that most people otherwise don’t notice), giving more attention to things, and greater sensory reaction times. Indeed, MRI tests have revealed that the brains belonging to people with SPS showed far greater than normal activity in high-order visual processing.

And while you may feel glum about being so shy, individuals with SPS have typically reported having richer, more complex inner lives than others – which makes sense, given that shy people, by definition, spend much of their time looking inward and reflecting. In essence, the shy person is substituting their social life with their own rich inner life: philosophizing, reading, exploring, and enriching themselves in their own way (which isn’t to say that being extroverted is bad, as it’s merely another approach to enriching one’s life).

So take this into consideration the next time you’re lamenting your shyness, as I often have (although I have my extroverted moments as well). Obviously, this information may be little consolation to those of you are particularly tormented by the social ramification of shyness, but it doesn’t hurt to keep it in mind. You may not realize it, but you’re social inhibitions are something to be proud of, especially if you make the most of them. 

Can you relate?