Personality & Highly Sensitive People

One of the most fascinating things about personality is that sometimes, one’s personality can have a correlation with a person’s physiological structure. It can define a unique biology for one’s body and one’s mind.

Elaine Aron has been researching a trait known as Sensory-Processing Sensitivity, and people who inhabit the trait are more popularly known as Highly Sensitive People.

Highly Sensitive People are easily overwhelmed by intense senses, for instance, bright lights, strong smells, and sirens. They are often seen by others as sensitive and especially are seen as shy people. Many Highly Sensitive People will avoided violent shows or movies, and they can sometimes structure their lives in order to avoid specific, overwhelming situations.

Only 15-20% of the population are known to have this sensitive trait.

Now, personality, specifically MBTI personality types, can define how a person’s brain processes information and makes decisions. It’s a way of differentiating specific cognitive processes. Highly Sensitive People versus those who don’t have this sensitive trait could be considered different personalities. However, sensitivity is more of a physiological difference in the brain than a cognitive, thinking difference in the brain.

If you want to find out for yourself if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, you can take the test here:

You probably won’t need to, however, because there is an interesting correlation between personality and sensitivity.

Sensitive types are more reactive in nature, and they will often observe a situation carefully before acting. They often “look before they leap”.

Based on that information, it isn’t surprising that 70% of sensitive people are introverts, while 30% of them are known to be extraverts.

Concerning Myers-Briggs, it has been found that INFPs, INFJs, INTPs, and INTJs are often Highly Sensitive. On the extraverted side of the spectrum, ENFPs and ENFJs are more likely to inhibit this sensitive trait.

What we don’t know however, is what came first: personality or sensitivity.

What I mean by that is often times personality types can be confused with specific psychological disorders. For instance, in school, INFPs and INTPs are often misdiagnosed with ADD. However, people with ADD will have common traits within INFPs and INTPs, thus, they might consider themselves INFP or INTP even though they were born with ADD.

A person could be born a highly sensitive person, born with that physiological structure, and then perhaps find that they inhibit traits found in INFPs or INTPs. In another way, a person may be INFP or INTP innately, but find they have a few traits known in Highly Sensitive People.

So, we don’t know if personality sprouts sensitivity or vice versa, or even if personality and physiology are symbiotic and are not independent. It is interesting, however, to see that personality can often have an affect on someone’s physiological structure.

In the next post, I’ll discuss a few traits that most INFPs will have in common with Highly Sensitive People.



Quiet by Susan Cain:


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