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Habituation: a key process in pre-associative learning

Habituation: a key process in pre-associative learning

June 24, 2021

Among all types of learning, the pre-associative learning it is the simplest of all and that which is shared by absolutely all the animal species of the planet. Is about a type of learning of implicit or subconscious nature that allows species to adapt to the environment .

It is enough for an organism to be equipped with the simplest of nervous systems so that it learns in a pre-associative way, which ultimately refers to the capacity of an organism to respond or not to the stimuli of the environment.

Habituation and awareness

Within pre-associative learning we find two phenomena: the habituation Y sensitization. For the moment we will focus on the first one.


Habituation: definition and examples

It is considered as the most primitive learning form of learning and is defined as the decrease in the response of an organism to a stimulus In other words, it is the process by which we stop responding to what is not relevant.

It is a tremendously daily and frequent phenomenon in our day to day. Those people who live near an airport, a large road or a disco will easily recognize it, because if for you it is the first time you are in the vicinity of such noisy places you will find it impossible to live in those conditions, while those who have been living in these conditions for a few weeks, no longer listen to noise pollution. The habituation has acted on them, and has made the stimuli that for us are aversive at first, they are unable to listen to them if it is not paying close attention.


A form of learning that allows us to adapt to the environment

But environmental noise is only a representative example of the multiple situations in which this process is present. I am sure that when you are driving or walking to work you do not pay attention to all those details of the road, the signs, signs and advertising are completely invisible to you since you have learned not to respond to them.

If a child ignores the frequent scolding and attempts to change a teacher or parents dissatisfied with their academic notes, it would not be fair to say that the child is disobedient, on the contrary surely it is that the constant shouting and calls from attention is no longer the most correct way to get the change in it, as it has stopped responding to them. It is also the case of the typical person who does nothing but complain or discuss every time he speaks and whose attempts at complaining and indignation are reduced to zero because we stop perceiving them, as they say "I get in one ear, and on the other I get it ".


A learning necessary for survival

As you will have seen, this mechanism is as simple as functional . Without this type of learning, the perpetuation of life would not be possible. Any stimulus that entered through the pupil of our eyes or through our hearing would be considered, analyzed and given an answer.

This situation would make us unable to take a step without first analyzing infinite environmental stimulation that is irrelevant. So, allows us to unfold with ease through our close environment without having to bother analyzing the possible effects of any sensation that we meet along the way and that we are on our way.

A process that involves negative social realities

Although strictly necessary for life, Habituation can lead to phenomena that are not pleasant to us and they take emotion away from life. Boredom, routine and boredom are always preceded by this learning, our body is not stimulated by anything that surrounds it and requires additional stimulation to which our body is able to react and feel alive.

In the same way, is responsible for the time passes so quickly because not to be perceived the elements of our environment, is not remembered and as we know the relationship memory-perception of time, not to store new memories, our perception of time is faster and we rightly sigh the speed with which life passes.

Remedies to end the negative effects of habituation

From what we have seen, it is impossible to think of a life without this phenomenon even if it entails a reduction in the attention of our environment, which leads to situations of boredom and feelings of transience. However, there are ways to combat their negative consequences.

Activities such as meditation, yoga, Mindfulness and in general, any activity that arises from Buddhist roots are based on the development of full attention of our external and internal environment, thus achieving that the small and routine activities of our life are made large and representative. As they say, the little things in life are the most important so let's not let this process inherent in human nature prevent us from seeing them.


Demystifying Medicine 2017: Addiction and Habituation: Drugs and Food (June 2021).


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