Antifragility or steeling effect is the concept that people improve through moderate adversity. Studies show, both too much and too little adversity result in worse psychological functioning, but moderate adversity in improvement. The term was coined by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb and developed in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, which refers to systems in general and theoretical terms. Antifragility is different from resiliency (i.e. the ability to recover from failure) and robustness (that is, the ability to resist failure) as these terms do not include the improvement from failure.
Hormesis[edit | edit source]
A similar concept, known as hormesis, refers to the dose response relationship that is often observed in the ingestion of various toxic substances or the exposure of organisms to various environmental stressors. If this stimulus is in the hormetic zone, then small amounts of negative stressors can result in an improvement to health and functioning. This has been observed with alcohol consumption, exercise, fasting and long-term calorie restriction, and even exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation. This concept has been disputed in regards to certain stressors however, particularly in regards to purported beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption and low-dose dose radiation exposure.
Resilience[edit | edit source]
People are also more resilient than commonly assumed. Adults and children who experienced potentially traumatic events in either psychological and physical regard show resilience in the majority of outcomes. In fact, one meta study of N = 55 studies found child sexual abuse accounts for 1% of the variance in later psychological outcomes, whereas family environment accounted for 5.9% of the variance. Childhood maltreatment ceases to be a significant predictor of adult violent offending once for genetic factors is controlled for, meaning maltreatment only happens to be more common in families with genetic predispositions for a fast life history and violent behavior rather than childhood maltreating changing adulthood behavior. Feminist studies on psychological "trauma" are riddled with pseudoscience and have incited substantial controversy.
Ethical implications[edit | edit source]
Antifragility can be used to justify any kind of moderate adversity, e.g. some kinds of celibacy such as premarital chastity could count as moderate adversity. However, moderate adversity may still be associated with an economic cost, as well as a cost of safety and societal cohesion in the near-term (see adverse effects of inceldom), which may cancel out its long-term positive effect. Generally, resilience and steeling suggests an extremely wide range of practices within bounds of moderate adversity have a beneficial or neutral effect on the flourishing of a society as long as they do not interfere with the economy, societal cohesion etc.
References[edit | edit source]