Dandelions, Tulips, and Orchids: Evidence for the Existence of Low, Medium, and High Sensitive Individuals
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According to empirical studies and recent theories people differ substantially in their reactivity or sensitivity to environmental influences with some being generally more affected than others. More sensitive individuals have been described as orchids and less sensitive ones as dandelions. Applying a data-driven approach we explored the existence of sensitivity groups in a sample of 906 adults who completed the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) scale. According to factor analyses, the HSP scale reflects a bifactor model with a general sensitivity factor. In contrast to prevailing theories, Latent Class Analyses consistently suggested the existence of three rather than two groups. While we were able to identify a highly sensitive (orchids, 31%) and a low sensitive group (dandelions, 29%), we also detected a third group (40%) characterised by medium sensitivity, which we refer to as tulips in keeping with the flower metaphor. Preliminary cut-off scores for all three groups are provided. In order to characterise the different sensitivity groups, we investigated group differences regarding the Big Five personality traits as well as experimentally assessed emotional reactivity in an additional independent sample. According to these follow-up analyses the three groups differed in Neuroticism, Extraversion, and emotional reactivity to positive mood induction with orchids scoring significantly higher in Neuroticism and emotional reactivity and lower in Extraversion than the other two groups (dandelions also differed significantly from tulips). Findings suggest that Environmental Sensitivity is a continuous and normal distributed trait but that people fall into three distinct sensitive groups along a sensitivity continuum.
- College Publications