Deutsch: Sensibilität / Español: Sensibilidad / Português: Sensibilidade / Français: Sensibilité / Italiano: Sensibilità

Sensitivity in psychology refers to the capacity to perceive, process, and respond to stimuli or emotional information from one's environment. This includes the ability to detect subtle cues and changes, both internally within oneself and externally among others.

So, sensitivity describes how sensitive a test is in measuring a particular neuropsychological construct.


In psychology, sensitivity encompasses a range of traits and responses that can significantly affect an individual's interactions and mental health. It is often discussed in terms of emotional sensitivity, which involves heightened awareness of and reactivity to emotional stimuli. People with high emotional sensitivity are typically very attuned to the feelings and needs of others and can detect nuances in mood and tone that others might miss. However, this heightened awareness can sometimes lead to overwhelming emotional experiences and increased susceptibility to stress and anxiety.

Sensitivity also plays a crucial role in theories of temperament and personality. For instance, the concept of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), central to the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) theory developed by Elaine Aron, describes individuals who are deeply affected by their sensory environments and have rich inner lives but may also be more easily overwhelmed by high levels of stimulation.

The study of sensitivity intersects with various psychological disciplines, including developmental psychology, where researchers examine how sensitivity in children impacts their emotional and social development. In cognitive psychology, sensitivity is related to how individuals process information and make decisions based on the perceived inputs.

Application Areas

In psychology, sensitivity is applicable in several areas, such as:

  • Clinical psychology: Therapists may work with highly sensitive individuals to develop coping strategies that mitigate the negative effects of their sensitivity while enhancing their ability to use it constructively.
  • Educational psychology: Understanding sensitivity can help educators create supportive learning environments that accommodate sensitive students’ needs.
  • Organizational psychology: Sensitivity is relevant in assessing workplace dynamics and developing management practices that consider the emotional climates of work environments.

Well-Known Examples

Key studies and theories that involve sensitivity in psychology include:

  • Elaine Aron’s research on the Highly Sensitive Person: Aron’s work has popularized the understanding of sensory processing sensitivity and its impact on individuals.
  • Attachment theory research: Studies here often explore how sensitivity affects attachment styles and relationships. For example, individuals who are highly sensitive may develop different attachment patterns based on their early interactions with caregivers.

Treatment and Risks

While sensitivity can be a valuable trait, especially in forming deep relationships and navigating social nuances, it also comes with risks. Highly sensitive individuals might experience heightened anxiety, emotional exhaustion, and burnout if they do not manage their sensitivity effectively. Psychological interventions might focus on boundary setting, stress management techniques, and ways to regulate emotional responses.

Similar Terms

Similar terms to sensitivity in psychology often deal with response to environmental or emotional stimuli but are distinct in their specifics:

  • Empathy: While closely related, empathy specifically involves understanding and sharing the feelings of another person, which is only one aspect of sensitivity.
  • Vulnerability: This refers to the susceptibility to emotional harm or hurt, which can be a consequence of high sensitivity but is not synonymous with it.


Articles with 'Sensitivity' in the title

  • Anxiety Sensitivity Theory: Anxiety Sensitivity Theory refers to the belief that panic disorder is caused in part by the tendency to interpret cognitive and somatic manifestations of stress and anxiety in a catastrophic manner
  • Contrast sensitivity: Contrast sensitivity is defined as sensitivity to the difference in the light intensities in two (2) adjacent areas. Contrast sensitivity is often measured by taking the reciprocal of the minimum intensity difference between two (2) bars of . . .
  • Contrast sensitivity function (CSF): Contrast sensitivity function (CSF) : Contrast sensitivity function (CSF ) refers to a plot of contrast sensitivity versus the spatial frequency of a grating stimulus
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Cultural Sensitivity: Cultural sensitivity in the context of psychology refers to the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of cultural differences and the impact these differences can have on individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behav . . .
  • Nonverbal sensitivity: Nonverbal sensitivity refers to the ability to accurately encode (express) and decode (understand) nonverbal cues.
  • Androgen insensitivity: Androgen insensitivity refers to a Condition in which a person lacks the mechanism that enables Androgens to bind to Genes in a cell's nucleus. - Moreover, Androgen insensitivity is a set of genetic disorders resulting from mutation of the . . .
  • Androgen-insensitivity syndrome (AIS): Androgen-insensitivity syndrome (AIS) : Androgen-insensitivity syndrome (AIS) refers to a condition in which a genetic male’s cells are insensitive to androgens, resulting in the development of female external genitalia (but no internal . . .
  • Denervation supersensitivity: Denervation supersensitivity is increased sensitivity by a postsynaptic cell after removal of an Axon that formerly innervated it. Denervation supersensitivity is a phenomenon that occurs when there is a loss of innervation or nerve supply . . .
  • Disuse supersensitivity: Disuse supersensitivity refers to increased sensitivity by a post-synaptic cell because of decreased input by incoming axons. Disuse supersensitivity is a phenomenon in psychology where a lack of use or stimulation of a particular neural pa . . .


In psychology, sensitivity is an important construct that describes an individual's ability to perceive and react to emotional and environmental stimuli. It has significant implications for mental health, affecting everything from interpersonal relationships to personal well-being. Understanding and managing sensitivity is crucial for fostering emotional resilience and healthy social interactions.


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