The Rewards of Being Shy

Posted on June 18, 2006 

The Rewards of Being Shy

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.

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