According to empirical studies and recent theories, people differ substantially in their reactivity or sensitivity to environmental influences with some being generally more affected than others. More sensitive individuals have been described as orchids and less-sensitive ones as dandelions.
Although our analysis supports the existence of highly sensitive or responsive individuals (i.e. orchids), the story regarding ‘dandelions’ is more complicated because they can be further divided into two categories. If we consider ‘dandelions’ as the metaphorical example of the low-sensitive group, what plant species best reflects the medium-sensitive group? Sticking to the well-known flower metaphor, we suggest ‘tulips’ as a prototypical example for medium sensitivity. Tulips are very common, but less fragile than orchids while more sensitive to climate than dandelions. In summary, while some people are highly sensitive (i.e. orchids), the majority have a medium sensitivity (i.e. tulips) and a substantial minority are characterised by a particularly low sensitivity (i.e. dandelions).Dandelions, tulips and orchids: evidence for the existence of low-sensitive, medium-sensitive and high-sensitive individuals | Translational Psychiatry
We’re always on the look out for new ways of thinking about and designing for neurological pluralism. Dandelions, tulips, and orchids designate low-sensitive, medium-sensitive, and high-sensitive people. We like the way this aligns with caves, campfires, and watering holes, the red, yellow, green of interaction badges, and the three speeds of collaboration.
One of the more interesting ideas emerging from attention capital theory is the surprising role environment can play in supporting elite cognitive performance.
Professional writers seem to be at the cutting edge of this experimentation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, we start to see more serious attention paid to constructing seriously deep spaces as our economy shifts towards increasingly demanding knowledge work.Simon Winchester’s Writing Barn – Study Hacks – Cal Newport
The possibility of this individual predisposition leads us to our second critical result–the analysis revealed dichotomous findings on individuals’ overall susceptibility to lifestyle factors. Individuals in the intermediate CC were largely resistant to the effects of lifestyle factors, be they detrimental or enriching. By comparison, individuals in the extreme CCs were especially susceptible to these same lifestyle factors.
An explanation for this pattern of results may come not from gerontology but from the developmental sciences. Boyce and Ellis (2005) advanced a theory that accounts for biological sensitivities in childhood to various harmful and protective environmental effects and their impact on development into adulthood. They proposed a developmental dichotomy to describe their pediatric patients: the theory of orchidsand dandelions. According to this view, orchid individuals are more environment-sensitive: they thrive under ideal conditions but are also more susceptible to deterioration in poor environmental conditions [see Boyce and Ellis (2005) and Ellis et al. (2011)]. In contrast, dandelion individuals are relatively less environment-sensitive: they do not thrive to the same degree as orchid individuals in ideal conditions but are also more resilient to deterioration in poor environmental conditions (Luthar et al., 1993; Masten, 2001). Although concepts of orchid and dandelion individuals were first developed to account for different trajectories in childhood development, the present results suggest that a similar framework may also apply at the other end of the life continuum, with more- and less-environment-sensitive older adults. The extreme cognitive categories may reflect the environment-sensitive qualities of orchid older adults. Conversely, the stability of the central cognitive score category may represent the environment-insensitive qualities of dandelion older adults.Frontiers | Does cognitive aging follow an orchid and dandelion phenomenon?
More Than Vulnerability and Resilience
At first glance, this idea, which I’ll call the orchid hypothesis, may seem a simple amendment to the vulnerability hypothesis. It merely adds that environment and experience can steer a person up instead of down. Yet it’s actually a completely new way to think about genetics and human behavior. Risk becomes possibility; vulnerability becomes plasticity and responsiveness. It’s one of those simple ideas with big, spreading implications. Gene variants generally considered misfortunes (poor Jim, he got the “bad” gene) can instead now be understood as highly leveraged evolutionary bets, with both high risks and high potential rewards: gambles that help create a diversified-portfolio approach to survival, with selection favoring parents who happen to invest in both dandelions and orchids.The Science of Success – The Atlantic
For in the story of the figure of speech from which this book draws its enigmatic title—the metaphor of orchid and dandelion—lies a deep and often helpful truth about the origins of affliction and the redemption of individual lives. Most children—in our families, classrooms, or communities—are more or less like dandelions; they prosper and thrive almost anywhere they are planted. Like dandelions, these are the majority of children whose well-being is all but assured by their constitutional hardiness and strength. There are others, however, who, more like orchids, can wither and fade when unattended by caring support, but who—also like orchids—can become creatures of rare beauty, complexity, and elegance when met with compassion and kindness.
While a conventional but arguably deficient wisdom has held that children are either “vulnerable” or “resilient” to the trials that the world presents them, what our research and that of others has increasingly revealed is that the vulnerability/resilience contrast is a false (or at least misleading) dualism. It is a flawed dichotomy that attributes weakness or strength—frailty or vigor—to individual subgroups of youth and obscures a deeper reality that children simply differ, like orchids and dandelions, in their susceptibilities and sensitivities to the conditions of life that surround and sustain them. Most of our children can, like dandelions, thrive in all but the harshest, most bestial circumstances, but a minority of others, like orchids, either blossom beautifully or wane disappointingly, depending upon how we tend and spare and care for them. This is the redemptive secret the story herein reveals: that those orchid children who founder and fail can as easily become those who enliven and thrive in singular ways.The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive
Findings suggest that environmental sensitivity is a continuous and normally distributed trait but that people fall into three distinct sensitive groups along a sensitivity continuum.
Traditionally, these findings have been interpreted from a perspective of vulnerability informed by the diathesis stress model. Central to this framework is the understanding that more reactive—or sensitive—individuals are more vulnerable to the negative effects of contextual adversity (e.g. childhood maltreatment, negative life events), while less reactive individuals prove to be resilient in the face of the same negative experience. However, this view has been challenged over the last decade by evolutionary-inspired theories according to which more reactive individuals may not only be more sensitive to the negative effects of adverse experiences, but also more sensitive to the beneficial effects of positive environmental exposures. In other words, people may differ in their general sensitivity to both negative and positive environmental influences rather than exclusively in vulnerability to adverse experiences. Consequently, the leading theoretical frameworks on environmental sensitivity propose that higher sensitivity would be associated not only with increased vulnerability to adverse exposures but also with a heightened propensity to benefit from positive environmental influences, such as psychological intervention. These theories further suggest that the majority of the general population would be characterised by lower and a minority by higher sensitivity. These two distinctive patterns have been described in the popular orchid–dandelion metaphor according to which orchids represent those individuals who are generally more sensitive (i.e. they do exceptionally well in ideal conditions and exceptionally badly in poor ones) and dandelions, those who are generally less sensitive to environmental quality (i.e. they are resilient and can grow anywhere). In a recent paper, we reported a first investigation into the existence of sensitivity groups in children and adolescents. Surprisingly, results across multiple samples suggested consistently that there were three rather than two groups.
In conclusion, besides providing evidence that the HSP scale reflects indeed a unitary dimension of environmental sensitivity, we identified three sensitivity groups in the general population rather than the two proposed by common theories on individual differences in environmental sensitivity. In addition to high-sensitive (i.e. orchids) and low-sensitive (i.e. dandelions) individuals, we also detected a group representing individuals with medium sensitivity (i.e. tulips). Orchids are characterised by higher neuroticism and lower extraversion while being more susceptible to positive mood induction. Dandelions are more extraverted and score lower on neuroticism but also have a lower positive emotional reactivity with tulips being situated between dandelions and orchids.Dandelions, tulips and orchids: evidence for the existence of low-sensitive, medium-sensitive and high-sensitive individuals | Translational Psychiatry
Evidence that adverse rearing environments exert negative effects particularly on children and adults presumed “vulnerable” for temperamental or genetic reasons may actually reflect something else: heightened susceptibility to the negative effects of risky environments and to the beneficial effects of supportive environments. Building on Belsky’s (1997, 2005; Belsky & Pluess, 2009) evolutionary-inspired differential susceptibility hypothesis stipulating that some individuals, including children, are more affected—both for better and for worse—by their environmental exposures and developmental experiences, recent research consistent with this claim is reviewed. It reveals that in many cases, including both observational field studies and experimental intervention ones, putatively vulnerable children and adults are especially susceptible to both positive and negative environmental effects. In addition to reviewing relevant evidence, unknowns in the differential-susceptibility equation are highlighted.Differential Susceptibility to Environmental Influences | International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy | Full Text
Hyper-plasticity predisposes us to have strong associative reactions to trauma. Our threat-response learning system is turned to high alert. The flip side of this hyper-plasticity is that we also adapt quickly to environments that are truly safe for our nervous system.
The stereotypes of meltdowns and self-harm in autism come from the fact that we frequently have stress responses to things that others do not perceive as distressing. Because our unique safety needs are not widely understood, growing up with extensive trauma has become our default.Discovering a Trauma-Informed Positive Autistic Identity
Part of our neuroception is genetic. Neurodivergent people have heightened neuroception from birth or before birth.
Danger cues that are very painful to a neurodivergent person may be neutral or pleasant to someone else.How to Use the Polyvagal Ladder. A set of graphics
Psychological safety is increasingly recognised as central to mental health & wellbeing. The polyvagal theory offers a ‘Science of Safety’ which can help inform clinical practice to promote wellbeing, resilience & post-traumatic growth, whilst mitigating trauma.Developing a standardised measure of psychological safety.
The aim of this study was to investigate the principle of differential susceptibility to cues in the work environment [10, 11] of people scoring higher rather than lower on SPS. Based on the literature on SPS [1, 7] and the JD-R model [12, 13, 24], we predicted that SPS acts as a vulnerability factor, amplifying the relationship between job demands and emotional exhaustion. At the same time, it may act as a personal resource increasing the relationship between job resources and helping behaviour. These predictions were investigated for each of the three dimensions of SPS (i.e. EOE, AES and LST) separately, in line with previous recommendations [6, 15]. The results offered first evidence for the greater susceptibility of persons with higher levels of SPS to the work context: EOE and LST amplified the positive relationship between job demands and emotional exhaustion, and LST also amplified the positive relationship between job resources and helping behaviour.Who is more susceptible to job stressors and resources? Sensory-processing sensitivity as a personal resource and vulnerability factor | PLOS ONE
Comparing ND to being an (HSP) Highly Sensitive Person
It depends on who you ask. Some people say it is different others say it is the same thing but HSP’s aren’t aware they are ND.
The differential susceptibility hypothesis /Orchid-Dandelion hypothesis is a more scientific/researched concept than HSP that overlapsNeurodivergence Info — Dr. Christine Henry