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David Baxter

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The Rewards of Being Shy
13 June 2006
By Michael Hochman, ScienceNOW Daily News

Shy people may be quiet, but there's a lot going on in their heads. When they encounter a frightening or unfamiliar situation--meeting someone new, for example--a brain region responsible for negative emotions goes into overdrive. But new research indicates that shy people may be more sensitive to all sorts of stimuli, not just frightening ones.

The findings come courtesy of brain scans of 13 extremely shy adolescents and 19 outgoing ones. Researchers, led by Amanda Guyer, a development psychologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, placed each child in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and had them play games in which they could win or lose money. The study subjects--who were classified as either shy or outgoing based on psychological testing--were instructed to press a button as quickly as possible after being shown a signal. If they pressed the button in time, they won money, or at least prevented themselves from losing it.

Both groups performed similarly, and there was no difference in the activity of their amygdalas--the brain region that governs fear. Shy children, however, showed two to three times more activity in their striatum, which is associated with reward, than outgoing children, the team reports in the 14 June issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. "Up until now, people thought that [shyness] was mostly related to avoidance of social situations," says co-author and child psychiatrist Monique Ernst. "Here we showed that shy children have increased activity in the reward system of the brain as well."

Why this would be the case is still not clear. "One interpretation is that extremely shy children have an increased sensitivity to many types of stimuli--both frightening and rewarding," says Guyer. There are other possibilities as well, says Mauricio Delgado, a psychologist at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. For example, increased activity in the striatum may help shy children cope with the anxiety of stressful situations, although not enough so to help them overcome their shyness.

These findings are also significant because they may help researchers understand why shy children develop psychiatric problems at an increased rate later in life, says Brian Knutson, a psychologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Because shy children appear to be more sensitive to winning and losing, they may experience emotions more strongly than others, putting them at risk for emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. On the flip side, shy children may experience positive emotions such as success very strongly, helping them succeed, Knutson says.

Related sites

Shyness Research Institute

The Neural Basis of Cognition
 

foghlaim

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Because shy children appear to be more sensitive to winning and losing, they may experience emotions more strongly than others, putting them at risk for emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. On the flip side, shy children may experience positive emotions such as success very strongly, helping them succeed, Knutson says.

I was going to ask you to find the reverse (the disadvantages of being shy) of this topic regarding shy children, but reading it again and taking note of the above paragraph, it seems to be coverd.. a little anyway.

thanks david, ifound it good reading.

nsa
 

rebecca8

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I was just curious. Has anyone ever tried helping shy children with animal therapy? I myself have ALWAYS been shy, and have grown to appreciate it. I LOVE shy children, and have also always loved animals. Perhaps, it's the sensitivity aspect that you talk about.
 

Daniel

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Has anyone ever tried helping shy children with animal therapy?

One way animal therapy could help:

Science is proving pets are natural therapists, especially for children. They can help kids overcome aggression and shyness and they teach responsibility and empathy.

...Taking care of animals also teaches responsibility and boosts esteem by giving kids a "helper's high." That may explain why children with pets score significantly higher when measured for self-esteem, confidence and altruism.

http://www.canadianliving.com/Family/pets/pet-therapy-n1050p1.html
 
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Hi all! The only problem i see with shyness is that the extroverts treat it as a disorder. Introversion is no more a disorder than extroversion and both styles have their pros and cons depending on who and what is expected of an individual.

Being shy by nature, i always resented how family, school teachers, friends, employers and society in general picked on me for not being "the belle of the ball" or how i became the target for bullies and criminals.

The perception that my shy nature is a "weakness" is what eroded my self-esteem with the predictable consequences and inevitable personal perception that what makes the "world" go round is a selfish, callous and cut throat dynamic.

Imho, being sensitive is an asset not a liability but since shy people are in the minority, the majority (extroverts btw) will bump you off. How lovely.

Live and let live!

Josée
 

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