The impact of the temperament trait of sensory processing sensitivity and different environments on psychological wellbeing and cognition

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Cadogan, Eimer
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University College Cork
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This thesis explored the relationship between SPS, the environment, and psychological outcomes. This thesis is comprised of two research papers exploring this topic. The first research paper is a systematic scoping review exploring the impact of different environments on the psychological wellbeing of those with higher levels of SPS. The second research paper is an original empirical study on the impact of a short virtual nature intervention on the affect and cognition of individuals with varying levels of SPS and examining the unique role of SPS in outcomes. Study 1: The Effect of Environment on Psychological Outcomes of the Highly Sensitive Person: A Systematic Scoping Review Abstract Those high in the temperament trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) tend to be more at risk of mental health issues such as internalising symptoms, anxiety, and depression due to their sensitivity to potentially unfavourable environments. They also thrive in favourable environments. A comprehensive review of the literature on different kinds of environment in relation to SPS and psychological outcome is lacking. We aimed to fill this gap by conducting a systematic scoping review to map existing research on the impact of different environments (physical, psychological, social) on psychological outcomes of those with high levels of SPS. It was conducted following the guidelines of Arksey and O’ Malley (2005) and following the PRISMA-ScR checklist. Sixty-three studies were included in the final review. Studies were conducted in mainly WEIRD countries. Thematic analysis indicated that there are a variety of environments studied, including sensory, occupational, and social environments, and particularly parenting and childhood circumstance. SPS conferred both benefits and risks in different environments, with negative psychological outcomes being the most studied, and different aspects of sensitivity explored. This review demonstrates the need for further research systematically examining different kinds of environments in relation to high SPS and in more varied populations. Study 2: Impact of the Temperament Trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Virtual Environmental Intervention on Cognition and Affect Abstract Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is linked with a variety of mental health issues, including rumination. The positive impact of nature-based interventions, and virtual nature interventions, on affect and cognition, particularly executive functions, are well established. The purpose of the current pre-post intervention study was to evaluate the impact of a virtual nature intervention on affect, rumination, and cognition in individuals with varying levels of SPS. Using a survey experiment method, 147 participants (53.1% female; Mage = 48.07) completed measures at T1 including Highly Sensitive Person Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-21, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, Brief State Rumination Inventory, and online Stroop Task, watched a nature scenes video or urban scenes video, completed T2 measures and Stroop Task, and then answered two open ended questions on their experience of the intervention and of nature in their lives. Pre-post intervention analysis showed significant decreases in negative affect and rumination following the nature intervention, and significant decreases in positive affect and rumination following the urban intervention. Multiple regressions showed that the model was significant for predicting changes in positive affect, negative affect and rumination, while the model was not significant for the Stroop Task. Changes in positive affect were found to be significantly predicted by the interaction between SPS and the virtual environment viewed. Conventional Content Analysis (CCA) explored participants’ experience of the intervention and of nature in day-to-day life, and suggested that many participants had positive associations with the urban environment as well as nature. A brief virtual nature intervention may be a feasible way of reducing negative affectivity and rumination.
Sensory processing sensitivity , Highly sensitive person , Wellbeing , Cognition , Environment
Cadogan, E. M. 2022. The impact of the temperament trait of sensory processing sensitivity and different environments on psychological wellbeing and cognition. DClinPsych Thesis, University College Cork.