Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. A window of vulnerability (WOV) is a time frame within which defensive measures are diminished, compromised or lacking.
The understanding of social and environmental vulnerability, as a methodological approach, involves the analysis of the risks and assets of disadvantaged groups, such as the elderly. The approach of vulnerability in itself brings great expectations of social policy and gerontological planning.
In relation to hazards and disasters, vulnerability is a concept that links the relationship that people have with their environment to social forces and institutions and the cultural values that sustain and contest them. "The concept of vulnerability expresses the multi-dimensionality of disasters by focusing attention on the totality of relationships in a given social situation which constitute a condition that, in combination with environmental forces, produces a disaster".
It is also the extent to which changes could harm a system, or to which the community can be affected by the impact of a hazard or exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: "we were in a vulnerable position".
Within the body of literature related to vulnerability, major research streams include questions of methodology, such as: measuring and assessing vulnerability, including finding appropriate indicators for various aspects of vulnerability, up- and down scaling methods, and participatory methods.[clarification needed] Vulnerability research covers a complex, multidisciplinary field including development and poverty studies, public health, climate studies, security studies, engineering, geography, political ecology, and disaster risk management . This research is of importance and interest for organizations trying to reduce vulnerability - especially as related to poverty and other Millennium Development Goals. Many institutions are conducting interdisciplinary research on vulnerability. A forum that brings many of the current researchers on vulnerability together is the Expert Working Group (EWG). Researchers are currently working to refine definitions of "vulnerability", measurement and assessment methods, and effective communication of research to decision makers.
In its sense, social vulnerability is one dimension of vulnerability to multiple stressors (agent responsible for stress) and shocks, including abuse, social exclusion and natural hazards. Social vulnerability refers to the inability of people, organizations, and societies to withstand adverse impacts from multiple stressors to which they are exposed. These impacts are due in part to characteristics inherent in social interactions, institutions, and systems of cultural values.
In this respect, there is a need to place an increased emphasis on assets and entitlements for understanding 'catastrophe' as opposed to solely the strength or severity of shocks.
A cognitive vulnerability, in cognitive psychology, is an erroneous belief, cognitive bias, or pattern of thought that is believed to predispose the individual to psychological problems. It is in place before the symptoms of psychological disorders start to appear, such as high neuroticism, and after the individual encounters a stressful experience, the cognitive vulnerability shapes a maladaptive response that may lead to a psychological disorder. In psychopathology, cognitive vulnerability is constructed from schema models, hopelessness models, and attachment theory.Attentional bias is one mechanism leading to faulty cognitive bias that leads to cognitive vulnerability. Allocating a danger level to a threat depends on the urgency or intensity of the threshold. Anxiety is not associated with selective orientation.
In military terminology, vulnerability is a subset of survivability, the others being susceptibility and recoverability. Vulnerability is defined in various ways depending on the nation and service arm concerned, but in general it refers to the near-instantaneous effects of a weapon attack. In aviation it is defined as the inability of an aircraft to withstand the damage caused by the man-made hostile environment. In some definitions, recoverability (damage control, firefighting, restoration of capability) is included in vulnerability. Some military services develop their own concept of vulnerability.
Invulnerability is a common feature found in science fiction and fantasy, in particular in superhero fiction, as depicted commonly in novels, comic books and video games. In such stories, it is a quality that makes a character impervious to pain, damage or loss of health.
In video games, it can be found in the form of "power-ups" or cheats; when activated via cheats, it is often referred to as "god mode". Generally, it does not protect the player from certain instant-death hazards, most notably "bottomless" pits from which, even if the player were to survive the fall, they would be unable to escape. As a rule, invulnerability granted by power-ups is temporary, and wears off after a set amount of time, while invulnerability cheats, once activated, remain in effect until deactivated, or the end of the level is reached. "Depending on the game in question, invulnerability to damage may or may not protect the player from non-damage effects, such as being immobilized or sent flying."
In mythology, talismans, charms, and amulets were created by magic users for the purpose of making the wearer immune to injury from both mystic and mundane weapons.