Elaine Aron: Highly Sensitive Person Research Findings

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What did Elaine Aron find in her highly sensitive person research? How do these findings relate to introverts?

According to Elaine Aron, a highly sensitive person (HSP) has 27 characteristics based on research. Of HSPs, 70% are introverts so introverts are often associated with these traits.

Keep reading for more about Elaine Aron, highly sensitive person research, and introverts.

Elaine Aron: Highly Sensitive Person or Introvert?

Since 1997, Dr. Elaine Aron, a research psychologist, has further explored the trait of high reactivity, which she has recharacterized as sensitivity. She found that highly sensitive people, 70% of whom are introverts, share a set of distinct attributes that, when recognized, can benefit society.

Aron’s list of twenty-seven characteristics, based on interviews and questionnaires with people who described themselves as being introverted or easily overwhelmed by stimulation, dovetailed with Kagan’s findings as well as with other research. The research found that highly sensitive people:

  • Are astute observers who look before they leap
  • Dislike surprises
  • Are sensitive to smells, sounds, sights, pain, and caffeine
  • Don’t like being observed (for instance, at work or performing music) or judged (for instance, in job interviews)
  • Are philosophical or spiritual rather than materialistic
  • Are creative and intuitive
  • Dislike small talk
  • Dream vividly and often recall details of their dreams
  • Love music, nature, art, and beauty
  • Are empathic
  • Have a strong conscience
  • Dislike violent movies and TV shows
  • Feel emotions intensely, especially joy, fear, and sadness
  • Thoroughly process information about their environments and notice subtleties

These attributes suggest that sensitive people are deep thinkers, which might be a reason they dislike superficial small talk. Another study found that sensitive people reacted particularly strongly to photos of accidents, pollution, and people who were injured, scarred, or experiencing strong emotions.

Survival Traits

For Elaine Aron, a highly sensitive person may have survived the evolutionary process because of other survival enhancing attributes associated with it, such as astute observation, the tendency to look before leaping, and the tendency to thoroughly process information.

In the animal kingdom, those who “watch and wait” and those who like to “just do it” have complementary value. The watchers notice danger, while the doers seize opportunities. The two strategies pay off at different times in different situations, which is known as the trade-off theory of evolution. Scientists have found that about 20% of many species are “slow to warm up,” while the other 80% are “fast” or bold.

The trade-off idea also applies to humans. In the same way that antelope herds depend on their most watchful and sensitive members for survival, so might human society depend on the compassion and empathy of people like Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped the country through the Great Depression and racial tensions.

Former Vice President Al Gore, an introvert, is another example of a leader whose conscience benefited society: long before most people cared about it, he engaged in a decades-long campaign to raise awareness of the danger posed by global warming.

Elaine Aron: Highly Sensitive Person Research Findings

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  • How extroversion caused the fall of Enron

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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