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Sensitivity vs. Sensibility: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Sensitivity refers to the capacity to perceive, feel, or respond to stimuli or emotions, while sensibility denotes the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences.
Sensitivity vs. Sensibility

Key Differences

Sensitivity involves acute physical or emotional responses to external stimuli, such as pain, light, or criticism, reflecting a high level of awareness or reactivity. Sensibility, on the other hand, pertains more to refined emotional perceptions, often associated with an appreciation of art, culture, and nuanced emotional interactions.
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Sensitivity can denote vulnerability or a heightened state of alertness to surroundings or feelings, both in oneself and others. In contrast, sensibility often implies a mature and developed sense of understanding, especially in artistic or philosophical contexts.
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In a psychological context, sensitivity often means a deep understanding of one's emotions and a strong reaction to emotional stimuli. Sensibility, conversely, suggests a balanced, well-developed emotional intelligence that allows for empathetic and cultured responses.
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In everyday language, being sensitive can sometimes imply being easily hurt or offended. Sensibility, however, is typically seen as a positive trait, indicating discernment and the ability to grasp complex emotional or aesthetic qualities.
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Sensitivity is often seen in how individuals respond to their environment and relationships, showing empathy or susceptibility to external influences. Sensibility is more about the depth of one’s emotional and intellectual responses, often linked to a sophisticated appreciation of subtleties in art, literature, and human behavior.
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Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

Reaction to external stimuli
Appreciation of aesthetic and emotional depth
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Emotional Context

Often involves heightened emotional reactivity
Entails refined emotional understanding
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Relation to Art

Less directly related; more about personal response
Directly related; involves appreciation and critique
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Social Perception

Can imply vulnerability or empathetic nature
Often viewed as a sign of maturity and depth
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Usage in Literature

Describes characters' reactions and feelings
Describes characters' deeper understanding or appreciation
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Sensitivity and Sensibility Definitions

Sensitivity

It denotes a heightened awareness of subtle changes or details.
His sensitivity to light made it difficult for him to work in bright rooms.
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Sensibility

In literature, it denotes the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or moral issues.
The novel's protagonist displayed a deep sensibility to social injustices.
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Sensitivity

Sensitivity is the quality of being easily affected by external forces or emotions.
Her sensitivity to criticism made her cautious about sharing her work.
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Sensibility

Sensibility is the capacity to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences.
Her sensibility to the arts made her an excellent museum curator.
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Sensitivity

Sensitivity can imply quickness to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.
The artist's sensitivity to color nuances was evident in her paintings.
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Sensibility

Sensibility may also refer to a specific kind of emotional or aesthetic awareness characteristic of an individual or group.
The artist's unique sensibility was evident in all his works.
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Sensitivity

In an emotional context, it refers to being quick to feel or express emotions.
Her sensitivity to others' feelings made her a compassionate friend.
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Sensibility

It often refers to a refined or discerning emotional responsiveness.
His musical sensibility allowed him to create deeply moving compositions.
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Sensitivity

In a practical sense, it can mean the degree to which something responds to stimuli.
The sensitivity of the microphone was perfect for picking up soft sounds.
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Sensibility

The ability to perceive stimuli
Lost sensibility in a toe.
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Sensitivity

The quality or condition of being sensitive
Sensitivity to the concerns of others.
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Sensibility

Mental or emotional responsiveness, especially in being offended or in having one's feelings hurt
"The earthy humor of many of the ballads deeply offended her sensibilities" (Anne Stott).
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Sensitivity

The capacity to respond to changes in the environment.
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Sensibility

The capacity to respond intelligently to refined emotions, especially in art
"They celebrated deeds that fit stereotyped images of noble valor, making the writing flat and tedious to modern sensibilities" (David A. Bell).
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Sensitivity

The degree of response of a receiver or instrument to an incoming signal or to a change in the incoming signal, as in FM radio.
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Sensibility

The ability to sense, feel or perceive; responsiveness to sensory stimuli; sensitivity.
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Sensitivity

The degree of response to light, especially to light of a specified wavelength, as in photographic film.
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Sensibility

Emotional or artistic awareness; keen sensitivity to matters of feeling or creative expression.
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Sensitivity

The proportion of individuals in a population with a particular disease or condition that are correctly identified when administered a test for that disease or condition.
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Sensibility

Excessive emotional awareness; the fact or quality of being overemotional.
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Sensitivity

(Biology) The response or degree of response, as of a cell, tissue, or organism, to a chemical substance or stimulus, such as a toxin, infectious agent, hormone, allergen, or antigen
Insulin sensitivity.
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Sensibility

(in the plural) An acute awareness or feeling.
I apologize if I offended your sensibilities, but that's the truth of the matter.
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Sensitivity

The quality or state of being sensitive; sensitiveness.
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Sensibility

(obsolete) The capacity to be perceived by the senses.
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Sensitivity

(biology) The ability of an organism or organ to respond to external stimuli.
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Sensibility

The quality or state of being sensible, or capable of sensation; capacity to feel or perceive.
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Sensitivity

Senseid|en|vulnerability of a pathogen to treatment}} Vulnerability to medical treatment: {{synonym of susceptibility.
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Sensibility

The capacity of emotion or feeling, as distinguished from the intellect and the will; peculiar susceptibility of impression, pleasurable or painful; delicacy of feeling; quick emotion or sympathy; as, sensibility to pleasure or pain; sensibility to shame or praise; exquisite sensibility; - often used in the plural.
The true lawgiver ought to have a heart full of sensibility.
His sensibilities seem rather to have been those of patriotism than of wounded pride.
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Sensitivity

(statistics) The probability, in a binary classification test, of a true positive being correctly identified.
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Sensibility

Experience of sensation; actual feeling.
This adds greatly to my sensibility.
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Sensitivity

(electronics) The degree of response of an instrument to a change in an input signal.
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Sensibility

That quality of an instrument which makes it indicate very slight changes of condition; delicacy; as, the sensibility of a balance, or of a thermometer.
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Sensitivity

(photography) The degree of response of a film etc. to light of a specified wavelength.
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Sensibility

Mental responsiveness and awareness
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Sensitivity

The quality or state of being sensitive; - used chiefly in science and the arts; as, the sensitivity of iodized silver.
Sensitivity and emotivity have also been used as the scientific term for the capacity of feeling.
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Sensibility

Refined sensitivity to pleasurable or painful impressions;
Cruelty offended his sensibility
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Sensitivity

(physiology) responsiveness to external stimuli;
Sensitivity to pain
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Sensibility

(physiology) responsiveness to external stimuli;
Sensitivity to pain
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Sensitivity

The ability to respond to physical stimuli or to register small physical amounts or differences;
A galvanometer of extreme sensitivity
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Sensibility

Sensibility can imply acute intellectual and emotional perception.
The poet's sensibility to nature was reflected in her vivid imagery.
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Sensitivity

Sensitivity to emotional feelings (of self and others)
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Sensitivity

Susceptibility to a pathogen
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Sensitivity

The ability to respond to affective changes in your interpersonal environment
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How does sensitivity affect interpersonal relationships?

It can lead to deeper empathy but also increased vulnerability to others' emotions.
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Can sensitivity be learned or enhanced?

Yes, through mindfulness and emotional intelligence practices.
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Is sensitivity always a negative trait?

No, it can be a positive trait, enabling deeper connections and understanding.
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What is the role of sensitivity in creativity?

It often enhances creative expression by allowing for a deeper perception of emotions and surroundings.
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What does sensibility mean in literature?

It refers to a character's ability to perceive and respond to complex emotional or moral issues.
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What is sensitivity in a psychological context?

It's the heightened awareness and response to emotional or environmental stimuli.
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Are artists typically more sensitive or sensible?

They can be both, but artistry often involves a blend of emotional sensitivity and aesthetic sensibility.
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Is sensibility an innate trait or can it be cultivated?

It can be both; some are naturally inclined, but it can also be developed through exposure to arts and culture.
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Is there a gender difference in sensitivity or sensibility?

Socially, women are often perceived as more sensitive, but sensibility is not typically gendered.
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How do sensitivity and sensibility affect learning styles?

Sensitive individuals may prefer environments with less sensory overload, while those with high sensibility might excel in subjects requiring critical thinking and appreciation of complexity.
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How does sensibility contribute to one's understanding of art?

It allows for a deeper appreciation and interpretation of artistic nuances.
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Can someone be sensitive without being sensible?

Yes, as sensitivity focuses on immediate reactions, while sensibility involves a deeper, more refined understanding.
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How do sensitivity and sensibility differ in emotional intelligence?

Sensitivity is about emotional awareness, while sensibility involves understanding and managing those emotions.
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How is sensibility viewed in different cultures?

It's generally seen positively, indicating depth of understanding and cultural appreciation.
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What role does sensibility play in moral judgment?

It allows for nuanced understanding and consideration of ethical complexities.
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Can a person's level of sensitivity or sensibility change over time?

Yes, both can evolve with experiences, age, and personal development.
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Can high sensitivity impact mental health?

Yes, overly sensitive individuals may be more prone to stress and emotional overload.
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Can sensitivity be a drawback in professional settings?

It can be if it leads to overreacting to feedback or stress, but it can also be an asset in roles requiring empathy.
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Is sensibility important in leadership?

Yes, it helps in understanding complex situations and making balanced decisions.
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How can one improve their sensibility?

Through exposure to diverse cultural experiences, reading, and reflective practices.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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