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Either way, it appears that controlling that reflexive reaction is key to positive outcomes. In a variety of studies over several years, Pérez-Edgar has scanned the brains of more than 100 shy adolescents. She's found that amygdala reactivity in shy kids looks similar whether or not they have anxiety. In other words, the kids who are anxiety-free yet bashful still experience that hard-wired response to social novelty. "But for one reason or another, the kids who remain healthy are better able to regulate that initial response," she says.


1540s, "excessively modest, shy and sheepish," with -ful + baishen "to be filled with consternation or dismay" (mid-14c.), from Old French baissier "bring down, humiliate" (see abash). An unusual case of this suffix attached to a verbal stem in the passive sense. Related: Bashfully; bashfulness (1530s).

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