Relationship between the temperament trait of sensory processing sensitivity and emotional reactivity

Jadzia Jagiellowicz1, Arthur Aron1, Elaine N. Aron1
1Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University
Cite this article:  Jagiellowicz, J., Aron, A., & Aron, E. (2016). Relationship between the temperament trait of sensory processing sensitivity and emotional reactivity. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 44, 185-200.

Volume 44 Issue 2 | e5052 | Published: March 2016 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2016.44.2.185

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Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is a temperament trait found in around 20% of humans, which has been found to enhance responsiveness to diverse stimuli. In this study, we investigated for the first time the extent to which SPS, and its interaction with quality of parenting, predicts positive and negative experiences in response to emotional stimuli. Participants (N = 96) from the upper and lower quartiles on the standard SPS measure (the Highly Sensitive Person Scale) rated the valence and their arousal level when viewing emotionally evocative and neutral pictures selected from the International Affective Picture System. High (vs. low) SPS individuals rated pictures eliciting emotion, and especially positive ones, as significantly more valenced, and tended to respond faster to the positive pictures; also, high, vs. low, SPS individuals who had reported having high-quality parenting reported greater arousal in response to positive pictures. Overall, results suggest that high SPS individuals respond more strongly to emotional stimuli—especially positive—without being more aroused unless they had especially high-quality parenting.

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