Habituation is scientific psychological learning phenomenon whereby our response is decreased to any stimulus after having been exposed to it repeatedly. In a practical example, it’s how one might learn to ignore the noise of living near a train track, where as to a visitor the sound might be overwhelming. Basically, think of habituation as a learned behavior that results in our ability to tune out non-essential stimuli to instead focus on all that really requires our attention.
The first time we put on pants after a long hot summer of wearing skirts or shorts or when put on cologne or perfume—we notice it. Yet, over time, we get comfortable & don’t notice our scent unless someone else mentions it.
We become habituated because we’ve been exposed to something frequently and over a long period of time. Likewise, it’s usually not something that we found intense —like a deafening, pulsating car alarm, which we’d never really be able to ignore.
Habituation happens from exposure to everyday stuff that almost becomes blasé, so we stop noticing it. People who work in a chocolate factory or donut shop become oblivious to the smells, whereas the chocolate or sugar would stimulate another quite differently.
Habituation deserves examination because it’s more likely associated with “what we get used to” in life versus what we might really want. Sometimes we habituate— but our low-level satisfaction or acceptance with the situation changes over time. This may be at the root of boredom in relationships or life.
If there’s something in your life you are resisting, perhaps it might be worth thinking about how habituation may be having an impact. For example, if you’re feeling bored with your significant other, perhaps it’s time to notice that they’re not the same as background noise. Bored with life? Maybe it’s time to shift our attention to what’s happening now & what could be happening if we made some different choices. While we might think life is always the same old, it’s not and doesn’t have to be. Likewise, if we’re habitually lingering over some social blunder we made who-know-when, maybe it’s time to realize that it’s only ourselves stuck in that habituation, and most likely others have moved on.
Our satisfaction in life depends on change and tends to disappear with constant consumption. By examining habituation, we might be reassessing what we’re taking for granted.
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