Understanding high sensitivity (SPS): the scientific background
Understanding high sensitivity (SPS): the scientific background

High sensitivity, or Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), is a characteristic that is accompanied by an increased perception and a greater arousal to respond to the mood of others. This is because areas of the brain connected to SPS are jointly responsible for sensitivity to sensory information processing and its integration, for action planning and awareness. High sensitivity is based on well-founded research results from around the world. It is a serious field of research. But what exactly is high sensitivity, or sensory processing sensitivity?

High sensitivity and temperament

High sensitivity has been a separate field of research since the early 1990s. Since then researchers has been conducting studies to what Carl Jung described in 1913 as “innate” sensitivity. This inborn sensitivity was then indirectly described in other temperament studies.

Researchers agree that our temperament is a tendency for how we react to and participate in our environment from early childhood. According to science temperament is a factor that is inherited. In addition, temperament traits are seen as the basis for personality development. They occur early in life, remain stable over time, and are influenced by biological factors. Hence, our temperament is the basis of our personality. The complex interaction between your temperament and your environment forms and shapes your personality.

High sensitivity, introversion and extraversion

High sensitivity can be explained biologically and evolutionarily. It can be measured in brain activity. And, moreover, has been associated for a number of years with various genetic variations, including neurotransmitters (the nervous system transfer substances), serotonin and dopamine. For a long time sensitivity was equal to being an introvert, but nowadays we know that these are two different things that often go hand in hand. But it does not necessarily have to be that case. 30% of all highly sensitive people show extraverted behaviour within the social context.

Aron’s concept of high sensitivity

Elaine Aron is one of the scientists who started conducting research to the sensitivity since the nineties. She was the first to call that concept ‘high sensitivity’ meaning that she created the concept. According to Aron, high sensitivity is a temperament trait, while introversion and extraversion are personality styles that develop over the course of life and describe our social, observable behaviour. She therefore believes that you are born as a highly sensitive person, but not as an introvert or as an extrovert person.


Hopefully you can better place the concept of SPS in a scientific context. All in all: highly sensitive people do not come from another planet and are not automatically highly gifted either. It is not a mental illness, but a neutral temperament characteristic that can explain many things in life, but certainly not everything. If you have SPS, you are born with it and you will be a highly sensitive person all your life.

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Content wizard who likes good food, is interested in alternative medicine and nutrition. Also likes to paint and read.

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