Electrodynamic simulations of gold nanoparticle spectra were used to investigate the sensitivity of localized surface plasmon band position to the refractive index, n, of the medium for nanoparticles of various shapes and nanoshells of various structures. Among single-component nanoparticles less than 130 nm in size, sensitivities of dipole resonance positions to bulk refractive index are found to depend only upon the wavelength of the resonance and the dielectric properties of the metal and the medium. Among particle plasmons that peak in the frequency range where the real part of the metal dielectric function varies linearly with wavelength and the imaginary part is small and slowly varying, the sensitivity of the peak wavelength, lambda, to refractive index, n, is found to be a linearly increasing function of lambda, regardless of the structural features of the particle that determine lambda. Quasistatic theory is used to derive an analytical expression for the refractive index sensitivity of small particle plasmon peaks. Through this analysis, the dependence of sensitivity on band position is found to be determined by the wavelength dependence of the real part, epsilon', of the particle dielectric function, and the sensitivity results are found to extend to all particles with resonance conditions of the form, epsilon' = -2chin(2), where chi is a function of geometric parameters and other constants. The sensitivity results observed using accurate computational methods for dipolar plasmon bands of gold nanodisks, nanorods, and hollow nanoshells extend, therefore, to particles of other shapes (such as hexagonal and chopped tetrahedral), composed of other metals, and to higher-order modes. The bulk refractive index sensitivity yielded by the theory serves as an upper bound to sensitivities of nanoparticles on dielectric substrates and sensitivities of nanoparticles to local refractive index changes, such as those associated with biomolecule sensing.