The Sensitivity to Context Dimension


  1. I have been told by someone close to me that I am unusually sensitive to other people’s feelings.
  2. I have occasionally been told that I behaved in a socially inappropriate way, which surprised me.
  3. I have sometimes suffered a setback at work or had a falling-out with a friend because I was too chummy with a superior or too jovial when a good friend was distraught.
  4. When I speak with people, they sometimes move back to increase the distance between us.
  5. I often find myself censoring what I was about to say because I’ve sensed something in the situation that would make it inappropriate (e.g., before I respond to, “Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?”).
  6. When I am in a public setting like a restaurant, I am especially aware of modulating how loudly I speak.
  7. I have frequently been reminded when in public to avoid mentioning the names of people who might be around.
  8. I am almost always aware of whether I have been someplace before, even if it is a highway that I last drove many years ago.
  9. I notice when someone is acting in a way that seems out of place, such as behaving too casually at work.
  10. I’ve been told by those close to me that I show good manners with strangers and in new situations.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10; score one point for each False answer to questions 2, 3, 4, and 7. Score zero for each False answer to 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10, and for each True answer to 2, 3, 4, and 7. If you scored below three, you fall at the Tuned Out end of the spectrum, while a score of eight or above indicates you are very Tuned In to context.

Neurological Aspects of the Sensitivity to Context of the Brain

The hippocampus is better known for its ability to form long term memories, but it also affects our ability to perceive contexts.  Low activity in the hippocampus is a characteristic of a person having difficulties understanding the social context of a situation.  Extreme case can be seen in people who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  It is shown that people suffering from PTSD often have abnormal hyppocampal function.  This affliction can have dramatic consequences.  Simply hearing the sound of an explosion in a peaceful context can trigger reactions that would be appropriate in a war zone but inappropriate in a our town.  This is an extreme example of an inability to adapt to our social context.