Sitters and Rovers

Once you know about sitters and rovers, you see them everywhere, especially among young children. Drop in on your local Mommy and Me music class: there are the sitters, intently watching the action from their mothers’ laps, while the rovers march around the room banging their drums and shaking their maracas.

Relaxed and exploratory, the rovers have fun, make friends and will take risks, both rewarding and dangerous ones, as they grow. According to Daniel Nettle, a Newcastle University evolutionary psychologist, extroverts are more likely than introverts to be hospitalized as a result of an injury, have affairs (men) and change relationships (women). One study of bus drivers even found that accidents are more likely to occur when extroverts are at the wheel.

In contrast, sitter children are careful and astute, and tend to learn by observing instead of by acting. They notice scary things more than other children do, but they also notice more things in general. Studies dating all the way back to the 1960’s by the psychologists Jerome Kagan and Ellen Siegelman found that cautious, solitary children playing matching games spent more time considering all the alternatives than impulsive children did, actually using more eye movements to make decisions. Recent studies by a group of scientists at Stony Brook University and at Chinese universities using functional M.R.I. technology echoed this research, finding that adults with sitter-like temperaments looked longer at pairs of photos with subtle differences and showed more activity in brain regions that make associations between the photos and other stored information in the brain.


What would the world would look like if all our sitters chose to medicate themselves? The day may come when we have pills that “cure” shyness and turn introverts into social butterflies — without the side effects and other drawbacks of today’s medications. (A recent study suggests that today’s S.S.R.I.’s not only relieve social anxiety but also induce extroverted behavior.) The day may come — and might be here already — when people are as comfortable changing their psyches as the color of their hair. If we continue to confuse shyness with sickness, we may find ourselves in a world of all rovers and no sitters, of all yang and no yin.


Shy people bring much to the cultural table. If everyone were outgoing, society would miss out on the crucial benefits of introspection.

Folksonomies: shyness shy social anxiety disorder

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rovers:Organization (0.806068 (negative:-0.114199)), Stony Brook University:Organization (0.325944 (neutral:0.000000)), Jerome Kagan:Person (0.317194 (negative:-0.346525)), Daniel Nettle:Person (0.304610 (positive:0.327906)), Newcastle University:Organization (0.296661 (neutral:0.000000)), sickness:HealthCondition (0.284015 (negative:-0.732936)), Ellen Siegelman:Person (0.248668 (negative:-0.346525))

Shyness (0.954503): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.877889): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Social anxiety (0.802073): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Stony Brook University (0.657192): geo | website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Yin and yang (0.632517): dbpedia | freebase
Human brain (0.586539): dbpedia | freebase
Brain (0.527367): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Temperament (0.505076): dbpedia | freebase

 Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Cain, Susan (June 25, 2011), Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?, New York Times, New York, Retrieved on 2011-06-26
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: shyness shy social phobia social anxiety disorder