the study found that infants who were 'inhibited' at 14 months old were more reserved 25 years later. but only 13% of differences in reservedness among the 109 volunteers were explained by this relationship.  

original article: Tang et al., 2020 (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), reported in: The Daily Mail by Johnathan Chadwick on 20th April 2020

this story was in episode 0 #reserved #shy #inhibition #longitudinal

the error bar says

if self-quarantine was not isolating enough, the Mail piles on the isolation by telling us that our shyness can be predicted by how we behaved as a 14‐month old.

the original study, by Tang and colleagues, in PNAS, reports on a herculean 3‐decade long study of infants, studied at 26 years old. in the study, the focus is mostly on some electrical brain data, but the headline focusses on the behavioural and personality data, so let's look at that.

the researchers took some questionnaire measures, combined them into a measure of 'reservedness', and also looked at other social and shyness measures. only one measure was strong enough not to be suspected as a 'false positive' - 14month olds who scored highly in 'behavioural inhibition' also scored highly in 'reservedness' 25 years later.

do shy children become shy adults?

1. as the authors acknowledge, the effects they report are quite weak – as might be expected for a 25-year-long correlation study!

2. the strongest statistical comparison is still relatively weak – the researchers could only account for about 13% of the differences between individuals based on their 14-month old inhibition scores

3. interesting, indeed. to their credit, the Mail did say 'tend to become' in their title.

but it seems their earlier title which remains at several places in the report: "Timid children become introverted adults with fewer friends" is not supported by the evidence!

i wonder who complained to them?


yes, they do!


The Daily Mail: fact - scientific story reported well