Being shy makes no evolutionary sense but is so very human

Shyness is a very unglamorous, mundane subject that avoids research because the shy tend not to speak or write about it.

Professor of English Joe Moran, who describes himself as shy, writes and speaks about shyness as a condition “ignored” in the current wave of attention on mental health and wellbeing.

Charles Darwin thought shyness odd because it had no evolutionary benefit, it was a by-product of us acquiring an ability to worry about what other people think of us. But that is what makes shyness so human, argues Joe. We don’t make sense; we are messy, conflicted, non-algorithmic beings.

His book Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness is described as a “perceptive and beautifully-written cultural history” in which he poses questions such as “Should we medicalise shyness? I worry we are pathologizing something that is just part of the complex mess of life.”


Professor Joe Moran