V is for… Vulnerable

The Psychologist A to Z continues.

Suggested by Aidan Kearney

‘Creating that environment where vulnerability can be displayed will help to develop trust, with its centrality to team high performance, and can help to manage those biases in decision making which can have drastic consequences. We don’t have all of the answers: so let’s seek collaborative insight, sit with reality even when it’s uncomfortable, connect with our thinking processes and try some vulnerability.’

In his 2012 interview Ian Walker pointed out that key issues around protecting vulnerable road users are being ignored. ‘What are the social mechanisms underpinning aggression towards cyclists? There’s speculation, but very little data and no real theories.’

In her 2014 article broadcaster and psychology graduate Sian Williams set out advice for interviewing people defined as ‘vulnerable’ by Ofcom guidelines (e.g. those with learning disabilities and mental health problems); and for recognising the vulnerability of journalists themselves.

We take a more negative view of our own vulnerability than we do of other people’s –researchers call this the ‘beautiful mess effect’. Find the 2018 study, led by Anna Bruk, covered on our Research Digest blog.

In an ‘unparalleled’ study of traumatic stress symptoms during a conflict situation, Talya Greene and colleagues found that the startle response was the most important predictor of vulnerability to future PTSD symptoms (see our Research Digest blog). 

Why are some people particularly vulnerable to mental health problems? See our May 2018 interview with Essi Viding, and Peter Kinderman’s public lecture ‘Our turbulent minds’, for clues and implications.

Tweet your suggestions for any letter to @psychmag using the hashtag #PsychAtoZ or email the editor on [email protected]

- Our Psychologist A to Z so far is collected here.

Illustration by Karla Novak.

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