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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Diversity in Children’s Temperament: Perspectives on Shyness in Interaction


One key dimension of individual differences that affects children’s development, interactional behavior, and cognitive processes is temperamental shyness–a tendency to be reluctant or anxious in the face of new social situations. Prior research has documented shyness holds the potential to negatively impact a child’s social functioning, psychological health, and language abilities. However, emerging research from different disciplinary angles sheds a more positive light on shyness by illustrating adaptive aspects such as benefits in social cognitive and communicative functioning (Viertel, 2019). Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that shyness may not necessarily have a detrimental effect on language learning, especially when knowledge is assessed under familiar conditions (Kucker, Zimmerman, & Chmielewski, 2021; Tolksdorf, Viertel, & Rohlfing, 2021). However, although considered a ubiquitous phenomenon, the relation between shyness and other cognitive, perceptual, and social processes in childhood remains far from understood. Thus, by drawing together multiple levels of analyses and perspectives, the aim of this symposium is to emphasize the diverse manifestations of shyness in interactional settings and its impact on empathy, language, and social interactions.

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