What is SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY? What does SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY mean? SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY meaning – SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY definition – SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY explanation.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under license.
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Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person (HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity. The terms SPS and HSP were coined in the mid-1990s by psychologists Elaine Aron and husband Arthur Aron, with SPS being measured by Aron’s Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS) questionnaire. Other researchers have applied various other terms to denote this responsiveness to stimuli that is evidenced in humans and other species.
According to the Arons and colleagues, people with high SPS comprise about 15–20% of the population and are thought to process sensory data more deeply due to the nature of their central nervous system. Although many researchers consistently related high SPS to negative outcomes, Aron and colleagues state that high SPS is a personality trait and not a disorder; other researchers have associated it with increased responsiveness to both positive and negative influences.
Boterberg et al. (2016) describe high SPS as a “temperamental or personality trait which is present in some individuals and reflects an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli”.
People with high SPS report having a heightened response to stimuli such as pain, caffeine, hunger, and loud noises. According to Boterberg et al., these individuals are “believed to be easily overstimulated by external stimuli because they have a lower perceptual threshold and process stimuli cognitively deeper than most other people.” This deeper processing may result in increased reaction time as more time is spent responding to cues in the environment, and might also contribute to cautious behavior and low risk-taking.
The HSP Scale, initially (1997) a questionnaire designed to measure SPS on a unidimensional scale, was subsequently decomposed into two, three, or four factors or sub-scales. Most components have been associated with traditionally-accepted negative psychological outcomes including high stress levels; being easily overwhelmed; increased rates of depression, anxiety, and symptoms of autism; sleep problems; and more physical health problems; the diathesis-stress model focused on increased vulnerability to negative influences. However, the differential susceptibility theory (DST) and biological sensitivity to context theory (BSCT) and sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) suggest increased plasticity (responsiveness) to both positive and negative influences; and the vantage sensitivity (VS) concept emphasizes increased responsiveness to positive experiences. Smolewska et al. (2006) said that in their research, positive outcomes were more common in individuals with high aesthetic sensitivity, who tend to experience heightened positive emotions in response to rewarding stimuli and more likely to score high on “openness” on the Big Five factors model.
Research in evolutionary biology provides evidence that the trait of SPS can be observed, under various terms, in over 100 nonhuman species, Aron writing that the SPS trait is meant to encompass what personality psychologists have described under various other names. Conversely, Aron has distinguished SPS from what she considers it is not, explicitly distinguishing high SPS from possibly-similar-appearing traits or disorders (such as shyness, sensation-seeking, sensory processing disorder, and autism), and further, that SPS may be a basic variable that may underlie multiple other trait differences (such as introversion versus extraversion)…..