Perspective on Shyness as Adaptive from Indigenous Peoples of North America

  • Erin Gurr
  • Razieh (Reyhane) Namdari
  • Jessica Lai
  • Daniel Parker
  • Dennis C. Wendt
  • Jacob A. BurackEmail author


With the essential goal of de-pathologizing Indigenous ways of being, we challenge the notion that behaviors indicative of shyness and inhibition that are often noted among the Indigenous peoples of North America reflect psychopathology. Rather, we highlight the role of shyness as adaptive within traditional Indigenous conceptualizations of development and socialization. We cite ways that shyness and behavioral inhibition are portrayed by Indigenous scholars, mental health workers, researchers, and youth as culturally appropriate, socially desirable, and even essential to communal social harmony. We also note that the commonalities regarding the value of shyness and behavioral inhibition both as adaptive for the individual and as essential for communal cohesion and well-being are striking in the face of the vast differences across the many Indigenous communities with regard to culture, language, locale, and even history. The relatively universal emphasis on Indigenous cultures of viewing oneself as a small part of the great universe is essential to the development of the pro-social values that lead to the development of ways of being that are characterized by little egocentrism, but high levels of humility, consideration, and awareness of the social and physical surroundings.


Adaptive development Colonization De-pathologizing Culture First Nations Indigenous knowledge Inhibition Inuit Shyness 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin Gurr
    • 1
  • Razieh (Reyhane) Namdari
    • 2
  • Jessica Lai
    • 1
  • Daniel Parker
    • 1
  • Dennis C. Wendt
    • 1
  • Jacob A. Burack
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Educational and Counselling PsychologyMcGill UniversityQCCanada
  2. 2.Montreal Art Therapy & Child Psychology CentreMontrealCanada

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