The brains of shy or introverted individuals might actually process the world differently than their more extroverted counterparts, a new study suggests.
About 20 percent of people are born with a personality trait called sensory perception sensitivity that can manifest itself as the tendency to be inhibited, or even neuroticism. The trait can be seen in some children who are "slow to warm up" in a situation but eventually join in, need little punishment, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts, the study researchers say.
The new results show that these highly sensitive individuals also pay more attention to detail, and have more activity in certain regions of their brains when trying to process visual information than those who are not classified as highly sensitive.
The study was conducted by researchers at Stony Brook University in New York, and Southwest University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, both in China. The results were published March 4 in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
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, research suggests.
Sensitive all around?
Previous work has also shown that compared with others those with a highly sensitive temperament are more bothered by noise and crowds, more affected by caffeine, and more easily startled. That is, the trait seems to confer sensitivity all around.
The researchers in the current study propose the simple sensory sensitivity to noise, pain, or caffeine is a side effect of an inborn preference to pay more attention to experiences.