People sometimes ask me whether or not there is a link between high sensitivity and giftedness. There are indeed links between the two, but also certainly some differences.

In 2015, clinical psychologist Elke van Hoof did research on high sensitivity and looked at a possible link with giftedness. She discovered that 87% of gifted people are also highly sensitive. In 2018, a similar study conducted by the Dutch IHBV and Erasmus University showed a percentage of 77% of gifted people that score as highly sensitive based on a questionnaire by the American HSP expert Elaine Aron.

Aron discovered that many gifted individuals are very sensitive. Therefore they are very creative, but because impressions and emotions come in strongly, they do not always know how to use that creativity. Aron delved a bit deeper into this emotional aspect and eventually came to the term highly sensitive. And there are indeed a few similarities.


What characterizes both gifted and highly sensitive people is that they perceive things intensely. They see a lot of details and can therefore describe something with nuance. Gifted individuals and highly sensitive people are also sensitive to the world around them. Impressions come in much stronger and this can be very tiring, especially in new situations. Here you can also see a link with introversion, which also quickly provokes overstimulation because of the sensitivity to dopamine.

Because both gifted and highly sensitive people often feel different, they tend to struggle with connecting with others. Due to their sensitivity, this may result in them adapting strongly to be able to find that connection. In the long run, that takes a lot of energy and can lead to fatigue and even burnout.


However, there are certainly differences too. One of these is the above-average intelligence of gifted individuals. We speak of giftedness if the IQ is 130 or above, while that is not a condition for being called highly sensitive. However, it takes more than an IQ test to measure giftedness, because we now know that gifted individuals are more than their above-average intelligence.

The processing speed is also different for gifted individuals. They process things quickly, while high sensitivity often involves 'pause to check': looking from the sidelines before taking action. Here too, there is a connection with introversion: an introvert thinks first and then speaks, while the process of an extrovert runs simultaneously. The depth of processing is similar for gifted individuals and highly sensitive people.

More research

Much more research is needed in this area to map out the differences and similarities more clearly. The boundaries between the two concepts seem somewhat vague. Yet in the end it is even more important to know yourself really well, rather than simply accepting some labels. Quiet Quality does not work with an IQ definition of giftedness, but is open to anyone who recognizes him-/ herself in the (much broader) characteristics. Would you like to talk about this to see if we're a good fit for each other? Do not hesitate to contact me.