A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high sensory processing sensitivity.
According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, who compose of about a fifth of the population (equal numbers in men and women), may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.
As opposed to shyness, which is best thought of a learned fear of social judgment, but often confused with an innate trait that would have no evolutionary advantage if it were nothing but fearfulness, the trait of high sensitivity is considered a basic, evolutionarily conserved trait with survival advantages in itself.
It’s an interesting theory, and something argued as distinct from introversion, though this last seems a stretch.
The traits they describe seem overwhelmingly correlated with common definitions of introversion:
- Are you easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input?
- Do you tend to be more sensitive to pain?
- Do you tend to work best when conditions are quiet and calm?
Essentially, the argument against this being another facet or description of introversion is that introversion is a purely social description. Elaine Aron argues that 30% of HSPs are social extroverts; I can’t help but wonder what her definition of extrovert is.