How does high sensitivity stack up against the OCEAN model? The biggest correlations, in my view, are openness to new experiences and conscientiousness. Of course, we know that 30% of HSPs are also extraverts and that neuroticism and agreeableness do not necessarily follow from being highly sensitive. HSPs CAN be neurotic and CAN be agreeable but, in and of itself, sensitivity is neutral and does not imply anything beyond a greater openness to all stimulation and a more thorough processing of those events, experiences, memories, etc.
As mentioned in the link, many other factors shape and form how we develop as human beings with sensory processing sensitivity representing a strong, heritable trait present in the human population in a large minority 15-20%. The trick really is utilizing it in the world for its many insights, its creativity, and its ability to connect us together through vulnerability and empathy.
2 thoughts on “how is high sensitivity related to other traits?”
Tracy, thank you for putting this straight. There still seems to be a strong tendency to see in high sensitivity a behavioral thing and suggest correlations for example between H.S. and emotional instability or neuroticism.
Still, among the “Big Five” in the OCEAN model, does high sensitivity not often go hand in hand with the “C” of conscientiousness?
I can answer this by referring back to a survey that I did in 2014 given to 1,551 HSPs. One of the questions was “I am conscientious.” 71.92% strongly agreed and 25.04% agreed so we DO seem to have a strong link between conscientiousness and HSPs, at least according to the 1,243 who answered this question as agree or strongly agree.
I completely agree that the OCEAN model and the lack of allowance for the existence of sensory processing sensitivity in that model, or others, leaves out 20% of the population. At worst it lumps people together as simply neurotic when we know from research neuroticism is not necessarily correlated with SPS. That’s a problem with all of the models that seek to explain all possible personality trait, the winnowing process to arrive at five categories inevitably leaves out broad swaths of the population or lumps them together in broad generalities.
Looking at the OCEAN model more closely, HSPs, in fact, as a result of their trait, are more Open to all new stimuli in their environments, they are by their own reporting deeply Conscientious, 30% are Extraverted (though the majority – 70% are more introverted), are likely Agreeable in most circumstances, unless feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, and may only appear to be neurotic in the same mentioned instances of overstimulation. If we looked at less sensitive people, theorized to represent roughly 40% of the population, it would be a different picture in some ways. The majority of less sensitive people are likely more Extraverted, more Agreeable, if we link Extraversion to Agreeableness, Open to most new experiences, as a result of Extraversion again? The two outliers might be Conscientiousness and Neuroticism, which not be present in as high percentages as with HSPs, given that HSPs benefit especially from positive environments and will work to self-create that environment to derive the sense of productivity, self-esteem, and confidence.
Sensory processing sensitivity is a trait that is experienced as a baseline temperament or disposition. The real problem is many HSPs lack mentoring and, as a result, have a difficult time learning how to BE highly sensitive in a modern world where they are outnumbered greatly and expected to conform to norms that are not necessarily suitable or appropriate for them. That’s why there is a proliferation of coaches and therapists of all sorts out there now working with HSPs to help them move through this necessary process of learning who they are, how to manage for their trait, and what they can do with it.
It is an encouraging time for HSPs with more awareness and support than ever before 🙂
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