Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is a personality trait commonly characterized by deeper processing of sensory information, being easily overstimulated, strong empathy and responsiveness to emotions (both negative and positive), and awareness of subtleties in the environment. SPS is relatively common (occurring in up to 25% of the general population) but is primarily seen as a risk factor for poor wellbeing. However, the trait also relates to benefits in positive environments. This study examines conditions under which wellbeing occurs for individuals high in SPS.
To investigate the relationship between SPS and multiple dimensions of wellbeing, 446 adults completed an online self-report questionnaire, and we examined correlations amongst SPS, wellbeing, and personality.
SPS was negatively related to wellbeing but became positively correlated with wellbeing after controlling for neuroticism and symptoms of depression. Although SPS and neuroticism were strongly correlated (r = .54), they were distinct factors.
Findings suggest that the poor wellbeing outcomes of SPS arise from neuroticism rather than sensitivity. Rather than being a risk factor for poor wellbeing outcomes, SPS may offer inherent wellbeing benefits for individuals who score high on the trait. This study further highlights the relation between individual differences and multiple ways of flourishing in life.