An Obvious Early Sign Of An Introvert

The signs of a reserved personality can be seen at 14-months-old.

The signs of a reserved personality can be seen at 14-months-old.

People who are inhibited as children tend to grow up into reserved introverts, research finds.

Inhibition as a child involves cautious, fearful and avoidant behaviour towards unfamiliar objects, people and situations.

Children who show this sort of behaviour are at a greater risk for anxiety disorders and social withdrawal later on.

People showing this pattern early on were also likely to have fewer romantic partners and lower social functioning, the study found.

However, being reserved had no negative effects on people’s success in education or employment.

Dr Daniel Pine, study co-author, said:

“While many studies link early childhood behavior to risk for psychopathology, the findings in our study are unique.

This is because our study assessed temperament very early in life, linking it with outcomes occurring more than 20 years later through individual differences in neural processes.”

The study involved 165 infants who were tracked first at 14 months-old, then at 15-years-old and later at 26-years-old.

Dr Nathan Fox, study co-author, said:

“It is amazing that we have been able to keep in touch with this group of people over so many years.

First their parents, and now they, continue to be interested and involved in the work.”

In adolescence they were given a wide variety of psychological and neurophysiological tests.

One test was for people’s ‘error related negativity’ — in other words, how sensitive they were to making mistakes.

People who are highly sensitive to their mistakes tend to develop anxiety-related problems.

Those who are not sensitive enough to their mistakes are at risk of problems like substance abuse and impulsive behaviour.

The results showed that infants who were inhibited tended to grow up into reserved adults.

Dr Fox said:

“We have studied the biology of behavioral inhibition over time and it is clear that it has a profound effect influencing developmental outcome.”

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Tang et al., 2020).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.