Vantage Sensitivity: Individual Differences in Response to Positive Experiences

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Abstract

The notion that some people are more vulnerable to adversity as a function of inherent risk characteristics is widely embraced in most fields of psychology. This is reflected in the popularity of the diathesis-stress framework, which has received a vast amount of empirical support over the years. Much less effort has been directed toward the investigation of endogenous factors associated with variability in response to positive influences. One reason for the failure to investigate individual differences in response to positive experiences as a function of endogenous factors may be the absence of adequate theoretical frameworks. According to the differential-susceptibility hypothesis, individuals generally vary in their developmental plasticity regardless of whether they are exposed to negative or positive influences—a notion derived from evolutionary reasoning. On the basis of this now well-supported proposition, we advance herein the new concept of vantage sensitivity, reflecting variation in response to exclusively positive experiences as a function of individual endogenous characteristics. After distinguishing vantage sensitivity from theoretically related concepts of differential-susceptibility and resilience, we review some recent empirical evidence for vantage sensitivity featuring behavioral, physiological, and genetic factors as moderators of a wide range of positive experiences ranging from family environment and psychotherapy to educational intervention. Thereafter, we discuss genetic and environmental factors contributing to individual differences in vantage sensitivity, potential mechanisms underlying vantage sensitivity, and practical implications.

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