Chapter 1. Personal Sensitivity Scale


Personal Sensitivity Scale

How sensitive are you? Psychologist Elaine Aron has created a “highly sensitive person scale.” To assess your own sensory-processing sensitivity, answer the 27 questions.

Aron, E. N. (1999). The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. New York: Random House.


Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1997). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 345–368.

Bolt, M. (2012). Instructor’s Resources. New York: Worth Publishers.

Zeff, T., with forward by Aron, E. N. (2004). The highly sensitive person’s survival guide: Essential skills for living well in an overstimulating world. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications


Answer each question according to the way you personally feel. Select "yes" if it is at least somewhat true for you; select "no" if it is not very true or not at all true for you.

Question 1.1

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.

{true} setModel("q1", qqMC1)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.

{true} setModel("q2", qqMC2)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB Other people's moods affect me.

{true} setModel("q3", qqMC3)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I tend to be very sensitive to pain.

{true} setModel("q4", qqMC4)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.

{true} setModel("q5", qqMC5)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

{true} setModel("q6", qqMC6)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.

{true} setModel("q7", qqMC7)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I have a rich, complex inner life.

{true} setModel("q8", qqMC8)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.

{true} setModel("q9", qqMC9)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am deeply moved by the arts or music.

{true} setModel("q10", qqMC10)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.

{true} setModel("q11", qqMC11)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am conscientious.

{true} setModel("q12", qqMC12)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I startle easily.

{true} setModel("q13", qqMC13)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

{true} setModel("q14", qqMC14)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).

{true} setModel("q15", qqMC15)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.

{true} setModel("q16", qqMC16)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.

{true} setModel("q17", qqMC17)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.

{true} setModel("q18", qqMC18)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.

{true} setModel("q19", qqMC19)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.

{true} setModel("q20", qqMC20)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB Changes in my life shake me up.

{true} setModel("q21", qqMC21)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.

{true} setModel("q22", qqMC22)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.

{true} setModel("q23", qqMC23)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.

{true} setModel("q24", qqMC24)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

{true} setModel("q25", qqMC25)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.

{true} setModel("q26", qqMC26)

uS+xJY+rPntALoOB When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

{true} setModel("q27", qqMC27)
{true} setModel("pretotal", qqMC1 + qqMC2 + qqMC3 + qqMC4 + qqMC5 + qqMC6 + qqMC7 + qqMC8 + qqMC9 + qqMC10 + qqMC11 + qqMC12 + qqMC13 + qqMC14 + qqMC15 + qqMC16 + qqMC17 + qqMC18 + qqMC19 + qqMC20 + qqMC21 + qqMC22 + qqMC23 + qqMC24 + qqMC25 + qqMC25 + qqMC27)
{true} setModel("total", 27 - model.pretotal)

Your Score

Your Score

You said "yes" to{}of 27 items.

Elaine Aron reports here that “If you answered more than 14 of the questions as true of yourself, you are probably highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it. We psychologists try to develop good questions, then decide on the cut off based on the average response. If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.”

In her book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, Aron suggests that high sensitivity is a trait found in as many as one out of every five people. It is as common in men as it is in women.

Aron claims that high sensitivity has sometimes been confused with shyness or introversion. However, these are quite different personality dimensions. In fact, she estimates that 30 percent of highly sensitive persons are extraverts. A culture that prefers confident, bold extraverts may view sensitivity as a weakness and confuse it with timidity.

Build This Strength

Cultural pressures could make a highly sensitive person feel inferior. However, Elaine Aron suggests that high sensitivity is neither a flaw nor a reason to brag.

Aron believes that high sensitivity is an innate trait found in as many as one out of every five people. It is as common in men as it is in women. Highly sensitive persons sometimes appear inhibited because they are more aware of all the possibilities in a situation. They naturally process information from the environment more carefully and study it thoroughly before acting. Highly sensitive people possess a more sensitive nervous system and thus are more aware of subtleties in their surroundings, an advantage in many situations. Indeed, many are intellectually gifted, unusually creative, and productive workers, and attentive and thoughtful in close relationships. However, highly sensitive persons are also more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment. They may become exhausted when bombarded by multiple stimuli, and they need to factor in more down time to recover. Used wisely, high sensitivity may be a strength rather than a weakness.

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