An Investigation into the Acquired Capability for Suicide

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The acquired capability for suicide (ACS) is one of the most important breakthroughs in suicide research. ACS refers to an individual's increased fearlessness about death over time from experiencing painful and provocative events (PPE) and is based on opponent-process theory—a habituation model. Few studies have investigated how ACS develops and found that ACS remained relatively stagnant.


This study sought to expand these findings by observing how ACS develops in two cross-sectional data sets involving high-risk nonclinical samples of physicians (n = 419) and veterinary students (n = 124). Participants completed online questionnaires assessing both general PPEs (e.g., witnessing abuse) and job-specific PPEs (e.g., exposure to euthanasia), as well as ACS.


Our results partially replicated prior findings indicating that more PPEs do not significantly affect ACS.


Limitations of this study include the use of cross-sectional data and self-report measures. These results, in combination with existing models of habituation, suggest ACS may not progress linearly.

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