psychology, habituation is the psychological process in humans and animals in which there is a decrease in behavioral responsevariation to a stimulus after repeated exposure to that stimulus over a durationof time.
Habituation is very similar to
acclimation, in that repetition of certain behaviors that are rewarding to a life form will likely be continued, or ingrained in a habitualmanner. For example, for all life forms on Earth, obtaining life-sustaining matterthat exists externally from those beings, such as food, water and shelter, is an habituated behavior. The learning underlying habituation is a fundamental or basic process of biological systems and does not require conscious motivation or awareness to occur. Indeed, without habituation we would be unable to distinguish meaningful information from the background, unchanging information. Habituation has been shown in essentially every species of animal, including the large protozoan "Stentor coeruleus". Wood, D. C. (1988). Habituation in "Stentor" produced by mechanoreceptor channel modification. Journal of Neuroscience, 2254 (8).]
Psychological significance in humans
Habituation need not be conscious - for example, a short time after a human dresses in clothing, the stimulus
clothingcreates disappears from our nervous systems and we become unaware of it. In this way, habituation is used to ignore any continual stimulus, presumably because changes in stimulus level are normally far more important than absolute levels of stimulation. This sort of habituation can occur through neural adaptationin sensory nerves themselves and through negative feedbackfrom the brain to peripheral sensory organs.
Habituation is frequently used in testing psychological phenomena. Both adults and infants gaze lesser at a particular visual stimulus the longer it is presented. The amount of time spent looking at a new stimulus after habituation to the initial stimulus indicates the effective similarity of the two stimuli. It is also used to discover the resolution of perceptual systems. For instance, by habituating someone to one stimulus, and then observing responses to similar ones, one can detect the smallest degree of difference that is detectable.
Dishabituationis when a second stimulus is presented in unison with a primary stimulus, and may briefly increase habituated response toward the primary stimulus until an organism distinguishes, or discriminates the differences between two different stimuli. Dishabituation has been demonstrated as being inherently different than psychological sensitization.
*Usabilityfirst.com. [http://www.usabilityfirst.com/glossary/main.cgi?function=display_term&term_id=913 "Definition of Habituation"] . Retrieved August 29, 2008.
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