Elaine Aron has repeatedly denied the possibility that HSP is part of autism, despite frequently voiced counter-opinions from the autism community. Neurodiverse people have the same aha! moment when they discover that they are on the spectrum or that they are HSPs, whatever comes first, there isn’t really much difference. Recently someone who was diagnosed with ASD in his teens wrote to me after reading a book about HSPs: “Perhaps I am merely a HSP and not autistic at all”. It’s not the specific label I care about. The label may just as well be indigo people or, “hunter-gatherer types” as I call neurodiverse people. It is increasingly turning out that the “female form of late-diagnosed ASD” is pretty much the same as HSP. I have been astonished by Aron’s strict separation like HSPs are a higher class of people and ASD is just a pathology. As a therapist, she has found out that HSPs make up the majority of patients in therapy who suffer from conditions such as social anxiety and mood disorders (the most common comorbidities of ASD). HSP is probably the overall defining feature of all neurodiverse people. And no, neurodiversity itself is not pathological.
HSPs are highly conscientious
High conscientiousness is very high up on Aron’s list of defining traits for HSPs. Well, it’s not part of being an HSP, there is no correlation between being an HSP and high conscientiousness:
Metaanalytical findings on the association between SPS and the Big Five personality traits (Lionetti, Pastore, et al., 2019) reported that in children SPS correlated with Neuroticism ( r =.42) but did not with Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, or Conscientiousness. In adults, SPS correlated with Openness (though to a low extent, r = .14) and Neuroticism ( r = .40) but did not with Extraversion, Agreeableness, or Conscientiousness. (The Highly Sensitive Brain , 2020).
Elaine Aron is an INFJ, with the J being correlated with conscientiousness. However, the HSP trait is more correlated with N (in addition to neuroticism and openness). I am an INFP, and my desk just looks as orderly as Einstein’s desk. What’s more, a lot of us have ADHD, which isn’t exactly helpful for being highly conscientious. Mrs Aron would probably be surprised how many of her supposedly “highly conscientious” HSPs are homeless because they were unable to hold a job or failed in school. Homelessness is largely a problem of neurodiversity.
70 per cent of highly sensitive people are introverts
Aron acknowledges that HSP isn’t the same thing as introversion. However, the majority of HSPs are introverts, extroverts only making up around 30%. I have argued that hunter-gatherer (neurodiverse) types are very much what Jung called “intuitives”. The distribution of extraverted vs introverted intuitives is almost reversed, i.e. there are more extraverted than introverted hunter-gatherer types. I have met dozens of extroverted intuitives who have called themselves introverts or even tested as introverts in psychological tests.
EN types might be less aware of them being different than IN types and therefore not be that interested in informing themselves about HSPs. EN types may often also be a bit less sensitive than IN types. Even so, I have met EN types who were just as sensitive to noise as I am, but I have also met some who were far less sensitive to noise. Just like with neurodiversity there is a broad spectrum of HSPs. For whatever reason the percentage is skewed towards introverts, IN types are certainly more likely to find out they are HSPs than their extroverted counterparts.
For more on the hunter-gatherer neurotribe hypothesis check out my