Magazine article Science News

Human, Monkey Shyness Varies by Gender

Magazine article Science News

Human, Monkey Shyness Varies by Gender

Article excerpt

Researchers have known that about 10 percent of both human and nonhuman primates are quite inhabited. New studies now reveal that shyness changes course in a similar pattern at puberty in both monkeys and humans.

Very shy monkeys and humans show similar gender differences as they mature: Males become less inhibited than females, the studies find. Researchers studying humans say society discourages shyness in boys but not in girls. But primate researchers point out that the gender differnce -- in shy monkeys at least -- has a biological basis.

A team of researchers from Cornell University and the University of Stockholm in Sweden studied shyness in 215 Swedish children born between 1955 and 1958. Boys who were very inhibited when first assessed at 21 months tended to lose their extreme shyness as they matured, beginning around age 7. Girls who were very inhibited when young had become only slightly less shy at age 16, when they were last assessed. Cornell's Margaret Kerr and her colleagues will decribe their finding in the February CHILD DEVELOPMENT.

At age 16, a similar proportion of boys and girls were shy, as some uninhibited children became inhibited over the years, probably due to experiences they had, Kerr says. However, at age 16, more of the shy girls than the shy boys had been shy consistently for the previous five years, the team writes. Also, more of the unihibited boys than the unihibited girls had been uninhibited consistently for the past five years.

This study "supports the assertion that, in general, the personality characteristics that are approved by society, especially those that are considered gender appropriate, and most stable over time," the team writes. …

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