Exploring the Multidimensional Structure of Sensory Processing Sensitivity in Turkish Samples

  • Gülbin Şengül-İnalEmail author
  • Nebi Sümer


We compared alternative models to explore the multidimensionality of the Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS; Aron and Aron 1997) on two Turkish samples. Using exploratory factor analysis, first study (N = 412) yielded four factors representing diverse domains of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS). Using both traditional confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory structural equation modeling (ESEM), a second study (N = 341) confirmed the multidimensionality of the HSPS, and demonstrated that the four-factor ESEM solution (sensitivity to external stimuli, aesthetic sensitivity, harm avoidance, and sensitivity to overstimulation) was superior to the previously reported alternative models. Four factors were also systematically associated with the external validators including big five personality traits. Findings suggested that a multifaceted approach to SPS representing domain-specific sensitivities is needed.


Sensory-processing sensitivity Highly sensitive person scale Exploratory structural equation modeling Confirmatory factor analysis 



This study was not funded by any institution.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies.


  1. Aron, E. N. (2004). Revisiting Jung’s concept of innate sensitiveness. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 49, 337.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Aron, E. (2010). Psychotherapy and the highly sensitive person: Improving outcomes for that minority of people who are the majority of clients. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1997). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 345–368.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Aron, E., Aron, A., & Davies, K. M. (2005). Adult shyness: The interaction of temperamental sensitivity and an adverse childhood environment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 181–197.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Aron, A., Ketay, S., Hedden, T., Aron, E. N., Markus, H. R., & Gabrieli, J. D. (2010). Temperament trait of sensory processing sensitivity moderates cultural differences in neural response. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5(2–3), 219–226.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Aron, E. N., Aron, A., & Jagiellowicz, J. (2012). Sensory processing sensitivity: A review in the light of the evolution of biological responsivity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16, 262–282.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Asparouhov, T., & Muthén, B. (2009). Exploratory structural equation modeling. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 16(3), 397–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benet-Martínez, V., & John, O. P. (1998). Los Cinco Grandes across cultures and ethnic groups: Multitrait method analyses of the big five in Spanish and English. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 729–750.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Benham, G. (2006). The highly sensitive person: Stress and physical symptom reports. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 1433–1440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Carver, C. S., & White, T. L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, Bbehavioral activation, and affective responses to reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 319–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheek, J. M. (1989). Conquering shyness: The battle anyone can win. New York: Dell.Google Scholar
  13. Chen, C., Chen, C., Moyzis, R., Stern, H., He, Q., Li, H., & Dong, Q. (2011). Contributions of dopamine-related genes and environmental factors to highly sensitive personality: A multi-step neuronal system-level approach. PLoS One, 6, e21636.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Child, D. (2006). The essentials of factor analysis (3rd ed.). New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  15. Evans, D. E., & Rothbart, M. K. (2007). Development of a model for adult temperament. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 868–888.Google Scholar
  16. Evans, D. E., & Rothbart, M. K. (2008). Temperamental sensitivity: Two constructs or one? Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 108–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evers, A., Rasche, J., & Schabracq, M. J. (2008). High sensory-processing sensitivity at work. International Journal of Stress Management, 15, 189–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eysenck, H. J. (1981). A model for personality. New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Biological dimensions of personality. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality (pp. 244–276). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gomez, R., Cooper, A., McOrmond, R., & Tatlow, S. (2004). Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity theory: Comparing the separable and joint subsystems hypotheses in the predictions of pleasant and unpleasant emotional information processing. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 289–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gray, J. A. (1981). A critique of Eysenck's theory of personality. In H. J. Eysenck (Ed.), A model for personality (pp. 246–276). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gray, J. A. (1987). The psychology of fear and stress. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gray, J. A. (1991). The neuropsychology of temperament. In J. Strelau & A. Angleitner (Eds.), Explorations in temperament (pp. 105–128). New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hedden, T., Ketay, S., Aron, A., Markus, H. R., & Gabrieli, J. D. (2008). Cultural influences on neural substrates of attentional control. Psychological Science, 19(1), 12–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hofmann, S. G., & Bitran, S. (2007). Sensory-processing sensitivity in social anxiety disorder: Relationship to harm avoidance and diagnostic subtypes. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21, 944–954.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6(1), 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jagiellowicz, J., Xu, X., Aron, A., Aron, E., Cao, G., Feng, T., & Weng, X. (2011). Sensory processing sensitivity and neural responses to changes in visual scenes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6, 38–47.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kagan, J. (1994). Galen’s prophecy: Temperament in human nature. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  29. Licht, C., Mortensen, E. L., & Knudsen, G. M. (2011). Association between sensory processing sensitivity and the serotonin transporter polymorphism 5-HTTLPR short/short genotype. Biological Psychiatry, 69, 152S–153S (supplement for Society of Biological Psychiatry Convention and Annual Meeting, abstract, 510).Google Scholar
  30. Liss, M., Mailloux, J., & Erchull, M. J. (2008). The relationship between sensory processing sensitivity, alexithymia, autism, depression, and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 255–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Listou Grimen, H., & Diseth, Å. (2016). Sensory processing sensitivity factors of the highly sensitive person scale and their relationships to personality and subjective health complaints. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 123(3), 637–653.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Marsh, H. W., Lüdtke, O., Muthén, B., Asparouhov, T., Morin, A. J., Trautwein, U., & Nagengast, B. (2010). A new look at the big five factor structure through exploratory structural equation modeling. Psychological Assessment, 22(3), 471.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Marsh, H. W., Morin, A. J., Parker, P. D., & Kaur, G. (2014). Exploratory structural equation modeling: An integration of the best features of exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 10, 85–110.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Mesquita, B. (2001). Emotions in collectivist and individualist contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 68–74.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Meyer, B., Ajchenbrenner, M., & Bowles, D. P. (2005). Sensory sensitivity, attachment experiences, and rejection responses among adults with borderline and avoidant features. Journal of Personality Disorders, 19, 641–658.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Muthén, L.K. and Muthén, B.O. (1998-2010). Mplus User’s Guide. Sixth Edition. Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  37. Nisbett, R. E., Peng, K., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2001). Culture and systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological Review, 108(2), 291–310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. O'Connor, B. P. (2000). SPSS and SAS programs for determining the number of components using parallel analysis and Velicer’s MAP test. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 32, 396–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What women and men should be, shouldn’t be, are allowed to be, and don’t have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 269–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schmitt, D. P., Allik, J., McCrae, R. R., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2007). The geographic distribution of big five personality traits: Patterns and profiles of human self-description across 56 nations. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38, 173–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sherry, A., & Henson, R. K. (2010). Conducting and interpreting canonical correlation analysis in personality research: A user-friendly primer. Journal of Personality Assessment, 84, 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Şişman, S. (2012). Turkish adaptation of behavioral inhibition system / behavioral activation system scales (BIS/BAS scales): Validity and reliability studies. Studies in Psychology, 32, 1–22.Google Scholar
  43. Smolewska, K. A., McCabe, S. B., & Woody, E. Z. (2006). A psychometric evaluation of the highly sensitive person: The components of sensory-processing sensitivity and their relation to the BIS/BAS and “big five”. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 1269–1279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sobocko, K., & Zelenski, J. M. (2015). Trait sensory-processing sensitivity and subjective well-being: Distinctive associations for different aspects of sensitivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 83, 44–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sümer, N. & Sümer, H. C. (2005). Big five personality inventory. Unpublished questionnaire. Middle East Technical University, Ankara.Google Scholar
  46. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics (4th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMiddle East Technical UniversityAnkaraTurkey

Personalised recommendations