For my academic essay title, I wish to use the term "Hypervigilance".

The context I'm using it is "an Era of Hypervigilance".

By "an Era of Hypervigilance", I want to describe the present period in time where people are keen to be social justice warriors— i.e. jump at any perceived societal evil and use any means possible to demonstrate the fact that they are "woke" (sometimes without knowing if perceived facts are truthful).

A few (two or three) sites on the internet do indeed refer to hypervigilance in this sense (that I intend). However, the term primary seems to describe a medical condition where being "hypervigilant" means being in "an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity".

My question specifically is this— would you understand the word "hypervigilance" if used in the context that I intend to.

If not, please can you suggest any suitable alternatives?

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    I'd understand that! I don't think the medical sense prevents one from understanding the social meaning; there are plenty of medical words which have do that (e.g. "hysteria", "paranoia")
    – Binney
    Mar 27, 2019 at 16:53
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    The first sense of the Merriam-Webster definition is "extreme or excessive vigilance : the state of being highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threat ." Mar 28, 2019 at 2:27
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    The subject and premise of your essay falls within the spectrum of what I'd expect from the title. One signal that the word is used in a social or historical sense rather than a psychiatric one is the word era. Another is the pithiness of the title itself. Mar 28, 2019 at 9:05
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    Your question has clearly explained the intended meaning of the term to us; there is no reason to think that you would be any less successful in explaining it to the readers of your article. The meaning does need to be explicitly explained, though, given that the word is also used for very different purposes
    – jsw29
    Mar 29, 2019 at 3:34

3 Answers 3


Given the accepted meaning in psychology, and the most-common situations & experienced conditions which give rise to hypervigilance, I would be somewhat reticent about using it in your specific use-case.

To be clear though, I'm also one who wouldn't use a medical / psychological term like "Paranoid" or "Neurotic" in a casual way either; I might be then outside the set of respondents whose input you seek!


The term hypervigilance just refers to someone keenly conscious about some matter. It does not need to be over-analyzed. It´s not a psychological term, not in the minds of laypersons anyway


I asked my wife, a retired clinical psychologist, and she didn't think "hypervigilant" was a good choice because to her it connotes something almost like paranoia. She suggested instead "zealot", "a person who has very strong opinions about something, and tries to make other people have them too," according to Cambridge dictionary online. So maybe Zealotry 2.0?

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    Of course, a professional in a particular field is immediately going to think of the meaning that the word has in that field; the OP is, however, nor writing for such a specialised audience.
    – jsw29
    Mar 29, 2019 at 3:30

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