A reader just sent me a link to a great article on the Livescience Web site. Although I find it annoying that the writer conflates shyness and introversion (one of my pet peeves), I found the main content of the article to be very thought-provoking. It describes a new study looking at the incidence of a genetic disposition to something called sensory perception sensitivity (SPS), which reportedly affects about 20 percent of the population.
Hallmarks of SPS include increased sensitivity to noise, crowds, caffeine, and a tendency to startle more easily. Also, “Individuals with this highly sensitive trait prefer to take longer to make decisions, are more conscientious, need more time to themselves in order to reflect, and are more easily bored with small talk…” While this sounds like the classic description of introversion, the researchers go further in their analysis, by looking at the underlying source of this behavior. They conclude that the increased sensitivity of those exhibiting SPS is the result of a preference to pay closer attention to one’s environment and experiences, a trait that could have evolutionary advantages in certain situations, in contrast to a “go-getter” attitude.
As I read the article, I found myself nodding a lot, and having little epiphanies about my own tendencies. Based on the description of SPS, I would definitely place myself in the subset of the population affected by it, and I appreciated that the researchers seemed to look at it in a positive light, instead of viewing it as a weakness. What do you think? Are you prone to SPS?