Shrinking Violets and Caspar Milquetoasts: Shyness, Power, and Intimacy in the United States, 1950-1995

By Patricia A. McDaniel | Go to book overview

Appendix A
Data and Methods

Data

Cultural standards governing shyness are communicated through a number of sources, including songs, television shows, films, advertisements, and novels.1 Yet most of these sources make only sporadic explicit references to shyness. As a result, identifying a definitive population of novels, songs, ads, or movies that contain representations of shyness might present a daunting task. There is, however, one source that has provided a sustained, readily comparable popular narrative on shyness: self-help books.2 While not every self-help book contains references to shyness, many do. Those that address shyness directly—whether through an entire book devoted to the topic or, more frequently, through portions of a more general book—dissect its causes and consequences and suggest ways to overcome it or cope with it in a variety of situations. Those that address shyness indirectly do so through discussions of effective communication and interaction skills and ideal personality traits necessary for personal and financial success. Taken together, these books provide a broad perspective on shyness.

Self-help books have a long history in North America; indeed, early British colonists began producing their own brand of prescriptive literature soon after their arrival (e.g., Cotton Mather's Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion; or, The Character and Happiness of a Vertuous Woman

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