Frontal Brain Asymmetry and the Trajectory of Shyness Across the Early School Years

  • Kristie L. PooleEmail author
  • Diane L. Santesso
  • Ryan J. Van Lieshout
  • Louis A. Schmidt


Although resting right frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) asymmetry has been linked to avoidance and withdrawal-related behaviors such as shyness in previous cross-sectional studies, relatively little research has examined the influence of frontal brain electrical activity on the development of shyness in children using a prospective, longitudinal study design. Here, we tested whether resting frontal EEG asymmetry predicted the trajectory of children’s shyness across five assessments. Children were enrolled in the study during the summer prior to grade 1 (N = 37; Mage = 6.39 years, S.D. = 0.15 years), at which time resting frontal EEG activity and maternal report of children’s shyness were collected. Mothers then reported on their child’s shyness over another four follow-up assessments, spanning 2 years (winter of grade 1, summer prior to grade 2 entry, winter of grade 2, and summer prior to grade 3). Growth curve analysis revealed that children displaying greater relative right frontal EEG activity had lower levels of shyness relative to children exhibiting greater relative left frontal EEG activity at study enrollment (i.e., age 6), but displayed statistically significant linear increases in shyness across time, with the highest levels of shyness by the summer prior to grade 3 (i.e., age 8). There was, however, no relation between left frontal EEG asymmetry and change in shyness across time. These preliminary findings suggest that right frontal EEG asymmetry may reflect a biological diathesis for the growth of shyness during the early school years.


Shyness Child development Electroencephalography (EEG) Longitudinal studies Trajectory 



This research was supported by a Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Research Award awarded to KLP, and operating grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) awarded to LAS. The authors wish to thank the children and their mothers for their dedicated participation in this study. We also wish to thank Amy Deconinck, Carrie Sniderman, and Laura Theall-Honey for assistance with data collection, and Zahra Khalesi and Anna Swain for their help with data entry.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval was provided by the McMaster University Research Ethics Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from mothers of all children in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & BehaviourMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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