Shyness: anxious social sensitivity and self-isolating tendency

Adolescence. 1984 Winter;19(76):903-11.


Based on shyness self-rating, 96 students in grade 10 were divided into shy and non-shy groups to study commonalities and differences between the groups on various aspects of the shyness experience. The shy group had significantly more negative self-ratings on the following items: loneliness, interference of shyness with academic success and with developing friendships, shyness around the opposite sex, and belief in the noticeability of shyness reactions by others. There were no significant group differences in the levels of self-liking and being liked by others. Compared to the non-shy, the shy group reported more negative cognitive reactions during the shyness experience, such as loss of concentration, speech problems, self-consciousness, and self-punitive self-talk. In spite of the shy group's cognitive problems, both groups identified many similar shyness-inducing social situations and physiological and non-verbal reactions. These similarities and differences between the shy and the non-shy seemed to point to their different ways of processing the same shyness experience. A self-alienating tendency at three levels (cognitive, affective, and behavioral), and two phases (primary and secondary) of the shyness experience are discussed as possible contributing factors. Shy students appeared to regard normal shyness as an unacceptable and shameful experience. Implications for therapeutic intervention and future research are discussed, and a new definition is given.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attention
  • Attitude
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Loneliness
  • Male
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Isolation