Study finds shyness varies according to attained social roles

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The study also found that people who were employed consistently had the lowest levels of shyness, while people who were unemployed or worked at home had the highest levels of shyness. People working in sales reported the lowest levels of shyness, while those working in unskilled jobs tended to report the highest.People who were in relationships had consistently lower levels of shyness across the lifespan compared to people who were not in relationships.PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Nejra Van Zalk of the University of Greenwich. Read her responses below:PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?Zalk: The topic has been of interest to me since the beginning of my postgraduate studies. When starting my doctoral dissertation, which focused on shyness (or social anxiety) as a human trait (rather than a state), I noticed that the vast majority of studies I was reading were portraying shyness as an issue, or a problem to be dealt with. Even though this is slightly oversimplifying things, it is nevertheless the case that many people in the Western world (and nowadays in other parts of the world as well, as indicated by growing research), simply do not want to be shy. Since publishing my dissertation I’ve received numerous e-mails from parents asking me for advice on what to “do” about their child’s shyness. Historically speaking, however, this hasn’t always been the case, as shyness was once seen as a desirable trait (particularly for women). These tendencies in the literature have led me to question the stability of human traits in general, and I have often wondered how certain environments or significant events in a life might affect shyness – for “better” or for “worse”.Getting access to a very large dataset collected by the BBC in the UK (where more than 550.000 aged 17-70 people provided data for this particular study), we were able to explore whether rates of shyness varied across different social roles, such as working in unskilled professions (where people had highest levels of shyness) versus working in sales (with lowest levels of shyness). People in romantic relationships also had lower levels of shyness compared to those who were single. Because the data is cross-sectional we were not able to address the issue of change over time, but the data do point to an important trend – that people either change their shyness by adapting to their environment, or they choose their environment based on their shyness (such as a profession, for example).What should the average person take away from your study?The take home message from this study, I think, is that traits are malleable – that is, they are subject to change. The way we “are” isn’t necessarily written in stone, and people could use this information to their advantage. For example, if one wishes to feel less shy, one thing to do would be to subject oneself to social challenges and do things one wouldn’t usually do. In many respects, this sounds like common sense, but it is now backed up by data. This study isn’t the first to look at variations in human traits, but is certainly (as far as we know) the first one to look at variations in shyness according to social roles on such a large scale.Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?The main caveat of the study is the fact that the data is cross-sectional. Having longitudinal data would have allowed us to test for bidirectional effects between the effects of social roles on shyness, and the effects of shyness of social roles in turn. This is a question that still awaits testing, and is an important one if we are to understand more about these processes.The study, “Does Shyness Vary According to Attained Social Roles? Trends Across Age Groups in a Large British Sample“, was also co-authored by Michael E. Lamb and Peter Jason Rentfrow. Research published in the Journal of Personality suggests that shyness is not a fixed trait, but something that varies over time based on a person’s social roles.The study, based on data from more than 550,000 adults in the United Kingdom, found that shyness was associated with gender, occupation, and relationship status even after controlling for various sociodemographic variables.Overall, women tended to be shyer than men throughout adulthood. But women and men displayed a different pattern of shyness over time. Men tended to be shyer when they were younger, but less shy as they grew older. Shyness levels among women, however, were more stable.center_img Share LinkedIn Emaillast_img read more