This is another paper
I wrote for an introductory psychology
class. Node Your Homework
is difficult to categorize and classify which might be why it is such an alluring topic for research
in the social sciences
as well as psychology. Many scientists think shyness to be largely a construction
of social development
but as the research of Jerome Kagan (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) has shown physiological elements are also responsible for shyness. The biological
approach to understanding shyness helps us categorize it among human survival skills. Unfortunately this survival skill makes living in a society in which constant contact with others and communication
are essential taxing for ?nearly one of two Americans? (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) who identify themselves as shy
Shyness began as a protective function (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995). When confronted with an unfamiliar (and possibly hostile) new environment
it can be a natural response. Until a person has determined his surroundings to be friendly and not threatening they cannot expect to relax. When the daily trial of physical dangers receded with the juggernaut of urbanization
bringing people closer together and making them more accountable for their actions this timidity in strange environments shifted to a more psychological foundation. Fear of embarrassment replaced physical threats (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) as man grew more civilized and socially oriented. The gradual development and refinement of this caution
became shyness - a fear of the unfamiliar without strictly rational
basis. The thing that makes living in a society of people possible, by inhibiting behavior
that may be embarrassing in social situations (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) can make unthreatening social interactions equally painful for some.
One important aspect stressed by Are You Shy?
is the importance of differentiating between introversion
and shyness. Introverts tend to avoid social situations by preference while shy people may lack the proper social skills
and confidence for normal social interaction. The shy suffer from acute self-consciousness (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) that causes them to keep their thinking self-centered. This can make understanding outside perspectives
nearly impossible. The shy person's preoccupation with the speculated perceptions of others might be compared with David Elkind's theory of adolescent egocentrism
(Wood & Wood, 1999.) Elkind used the term "imaginary audience"(Wood & Wood, 1999) to define the circle of imaginary peers that continually monitored and judged the actions of the thinker. Given the similarities to the egotistical self-centeredness of adolescents shy people may construct similar circles of imaginary critic
Even though the actual criticism and social scorn
of shyness may be largely in the imagination of the sufferer the costs are not. Fear of exposing oneself to social situations can severely limit the quality of life
that a shy person aspires to. Beginning in childhood a shy person can "slip into more solitary
activities, even though he wants to be social" (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) which may lessen the chances of the child developing social skills and self-esteem later in life.
created by shyness can also lead to other problems. The possibility for "abuse of alcohol
as social lubricants" looms heavily with the problems associated with chemical
dependence so prevalent in the United States. The lack of intimate communication of thoughts and feelings can also cause faulty, unreasoned thinking. Without the checks and balances of dialogue
with others the shy person can wander off into vast wastelands of paranoia
(Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995). Referenced as "the Hugh Grant Effect" (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) shy people may pay prostitutes to satisfy their unexpressed desires rather than communicating directly with their partner. The fear of sexual failure
may also be a barrier for the shy; making both the fore mentioned allure of anonymous sex more attractive and the act of sex within a committed relationship
The lack of interpersonal skills can also be a hindrance in other areas of life. Stanford
Business School professor Thomas Harrell researched the question of predicting success in ten-year graduates (Carducci & Zimbardo, 1995) and found the highest correlation between success in business and verbal fluency
. Shy people are doomed to less prestigious employment according to this hypothesis. While those with more confidence
in their ability to speak in front of people or persuade them rise to the higher positions within business the less verbally skilled fall through the cracks. The shy may find themselves making less money not from a lack of skill but from not being able to "talk shop."
With the wide availability and increasing popularity of electronic communications shy people may have more equal opportunities in the workplace. Unfortunately this also provides less opportunities to learn social skills through real interactions with others. The very anonymity of email and other electronic media can create the exact controlled environment that shy people often seek. While this might create a more comfortable neutral
ground temporarily the risk of dependence on these methods of communication above others becomes an issue.
The actual impact of shyness on the lives of Americans is difficult to measure. While many people self-identify as shy the actual advantages and disadvantages of their outlook is impossible to accurately assess. With the integration of technology into our daily lives shyness may well become less oppressive to those who suffer from it. At the same time many psychologists will argue that physical communications between humans is essential for us to remain human. Do we want to live in a society where face-to-face meetings are considered awkward? Another question that begs to be answered: how much of the technological mediation we increasingly depend on is motivated by shyness instead of necessity? With increasing numbers online globally the truth will never be known. Maybe shyness will come full circle again to become a survival tool for living in a world where human contact is slowly becoming obsolete
Carducci, Bernardo J. Ph.D & Zimbardo, Philip G. Ph.D (1995). Are You Shy? In C. Randell (Ed.) Selected Readings in Psychology Sixth Edition
(pp. 14-20). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Wood, Ellen Green & Wood, Samuel E. (1999). The World of Psychology Third Edition.
Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.