Habituation: What It Means and How It Operates in Our Daily Lives

You’ve heard of it; it can occur when you’re involved in a long-term relationship, regardless of how much you cherish each partner; there’s the point where you look at each other and say, “Wow, I don’t feel like I’m appreciated,” and when that happens, it’s often because of habituation.

In the absence of it, we would all be in awe of almost everything we see and do; It would be impossible to accomplish anything; Everything feels new, exciting, and distracting. It is true that a beginner’s mind is an arousing condition; however, without the ability to become accustomed to constant stimulation, our attention would be on every single element of our surroundings. We would need help to differentiate between what should be the focus and what should be the background. Ultimately, the ability to overlook irrelevant things (i.e., at the simplest level, the stuff that isn’t life-threatening) is a wonderful benefit.

Are you wondering how a person can be able to listen to songs all night and still sleep soundly in the midst of noises or sounds? It’s not a mystery. They’ve habituated!

What is Habituation?

Habituation is what occurs when you get familiar with a particular place or situation and so on. It’s a term that is often used in the field of psychology, specifically when it comes to behaviour and learning.

Habituation is the diminution of reaction to a stimulus following repeated exposures. As the American Psychological Association defines it, the process of habituation is “growing used to a particular event or stimulus” and thus reducing its effectiveness.

We are accustomed to something as we encounter it and eventually become insensitive to its effects. Habituation is a mechanism for survival that occurs in both humans and animals. By understanding the nature of it, we can apply this to our advantage.

Habituation Psychology

Being used to the same scenario decreases the response since the stimulus is less powerful and effective. The ability of the stimulus to trigger an unanticipated response in the organism decreases in a significant way.

Once we get familiar with repeated exposure and repetition, we begin to develop a sense of routine, and we know it will happen repeatedly.

There’s nothing new in the stimulus, and as a result, the response diminishes slowly, steadily, and over time.

In one sense, we could claim that habituation is an adaptation process that humans and all living things are able to develop because of the repetition and replication of the stimulus.

We adapt to changes in different circumstances and conditions, and this doesn’t affect us the same way it did in the past. So, the habituation process also is a form of adaptation and tolerance.

Another interesting aspect of habituation is that the reduction in the behavioural response isn’t due to fatigue from motor or sensor fatigue.

We can therefore conclude that you’ll ignore the stimulus after repeated exposures.

Habituation vs. Reinforcement

It is often a question of distinction between reinforcement and habituation. Both are ways of learning, so what is the difference between them?


It is a method of learning that is based on punishment and reward. When an action is performed or behaviour is displayed. It is followed by a prize or penalty. In other words, actions or behaviour that result in positive reactions are rewarded and reaffirmed. The ones that cause undesirable consequences (punishments) are degraded and discouraged.

As time passes, reinforcement enhances the response to stimulus. 


This is disconnect or disassociation; It is not encouraging or dissuading an action learned or response through a trick or sweet treat; it aims to be neutral.

While the response to stimulus increases as reinforcement increases as time passes but diminishes with regularity for habituation.

Habituation Examples

To understand how habituation is created, it is beneficial to examine some examples. This phenomenon plays an important role in numerous areas, including learning, perception, and even memory.


Habituation is among the most simple and popular methods of learning. It lets people block out distractions and concentrate on things that require attention.

Imagine you’re working with music playing in the background. The sounds might distract you initially, but the process of habituation lets you eventually ignore the distraction and concentrate on the subject you’re trying to master.

Habituation during learning is something that happens regularly in your everyday life, yet you are probably largely unaware of it.


Imagine that you’re in your house, and there is a noise from the neighbour’s house. The strange sound immediately grabs your attention, and you begin to wonder whether there is something wrong or what could be the cause of the noise.

In the following days, the sound is heard at a steady pace. In the end, you are able to stop hearing the sound. This is a sign of the habituation process in the perception.

It’s not only sound that prompts us to become habituated. Other senses may also be affected by habituation, like your sense of smell.

Theories of Habituation

Habituation is an example of non-associative learning. It’s because neither reward nor punishment goes along with the event. There’s no pain or pleasure because of your neighbour’s banging sounds.

So why do we experience habituation? There are several psychological theories to understand why habituation happens:

Comparator Theory of Habituation 

The brain is believed to create a mental model of the stimulus. After repeated presentations, the stimulus is assessed against the model, and If it’s a match, the response is blocked.

Dual-factor Theory of Habituation 

This suggests that there are neural processes that control the responsiveness to various stimuli. The brain decides for us that we don’t have to think about that loud sound because there are more important things to focus our attention on.

Characteristics of Habituation

The most notable features of habituation learning can be described like this:

  • If a stimulus is shown multiple times, it causes the response to be less or decreasing.
  • The response that is habitual returns after a certain period of time if the stimulus alters or returns after the time-lapse.
  • Repeated habituation, followed by a recovery, leads to speeding up the habituation process. This is referred to as potentiation.
  • If the stimulus is presented with a higher frequency, faster will be the habituation and spontaneous recovery.
  • The lower frequency stimulus can cause a more subtle type of habituation.
  • The weak stimulus will lead to a faster rate of habituation.
  • In the event that the stimulation is powerful, a slow rate of habituation will occur.
  • Certain habituation patterns last for a longer period of time, for weeks or even months. This is called long-term habituation. However, some of them are brief-lived and last for only several minutes or even hours. It is then referred to as temporary habituation.
  • Habituation is a form of neural learning.
  • It can cause a type of psychological dependence.
  • Habituation can be seen in animals and humans too.
  • If you become habituated to a particular stimulus, it will lead to a diminished response to a similar kind of stimulus. 
  • Sometimes habituation and dishabituation (the recovered response that reappears again after a lapse of time) can occur together if the strength or quality of the original stimulus changes.

For instance, your habituation to a loudspeaker sound in the area could cause you to become habituated to similar sounds heard within the neighbourhood.

Factors influencing Habituation.

Habituation isn’t always a result of the same thing, and there are numerous variables that affect how quickly you develop habituation to an event. The main factors that influence habituation are:


Changing the intensity or duration of the stimulation may result in a reoccurrence of the original response. So if that banging noise gets louder over time or changes in rhythm, you are more likely to notice it again.


If the stimulus that triggers habituation is not present for a long time before abrupt introduction, the reaction will likely reappear in full force. Therefore, if the neighbour’s loud banging was to begin and stop, it’s less likely that you’ll be accustomed to the noise.


The more often an event is introduced, the faster the process of habituation. If you wear that same perfume every day, you’re more likely to stop noticing it earlier. 


The most intense simulations tend to cause slower habituation. In some instances, for example, loud noises like car alarm sirens, habituation may never happen.

Habituation in Relationships

Habituation is a term that is often applied to perceptual phenomena. However, it also has numerous applications in the real world. This could include relationships with friends. The effects of habituation can impact your relationships in many ways:

We become accustomed to the good and bad.

As we get to know more about people, it’s natural to be less attentive to every detail and get more accustomed to their good and negative qualities.

We forget some things and become annoyed by others.

You may become accustomed to things that you initially thought unsettling, or you may even find yourself more annoyed with things you didn’t realize at first.

Newness draws more attention in the beginning.

In the beginning stages of any relationship, people are likely to react more quickly. Every experience is thrilling since it’s brand new and exciting.

Novelty eventually wears off.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a condition that lasts forever. Eventually, habituation sets in and people stop noticing every little thing.

Although habituation can lead to the excitement of a new relationship fading with time, this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. The initial excitement that is usually in the beginning of a relationship will give way to something deeper and lasting. It’s a deeper loving, meaningful relationship characterized by support, friendship, respect, and the desire to be loved.

When Habituation Can Hurt a Relationship

Habituation in relationships can become problematic, especially when it causes you to take the other person or their efforts for granted. Relationships that last for a long time can be the victim of this problem.

In time, you may find yourself feeling that your partner isn’t a fan of the contributions that you bring to the relationship. Maybe it’s your partner that feels they are not being appreciated.

Read More: What Is Commitment in a Relationship: How to Stay Committed: Signs, Stages, Rules, and Everything Else

Read More: How to Overcome Apathy and Feel Good Again

Read More: The Illusion of Choice and How It Affects You

How to Overcome Habituation in Relationships

Do you have a way to help bring some of the sparks that ignited your relationship back in your relationship while reversing routine? Yes, you do:

Practice gratitude

When you spend more and more time with the person you love, it could be very easy to get caught up in the aspects of them that you find annoying. If you only focus on these traits, it is extremely difficult to stay happy and connected. Instead, you should be grateful for the blessings that they bring to your life.

Keep your eyes on the good

Spend some time thinking about the things that you appreciate about the person you love. What are the characteristics you love most about the person you are with? What attracted you the most at first?

Recall the feelings you had at the beginning of the relationship

Think about the things you first noticed and admired with and about your partner. Take note of the things that you enjoy doing as two people. It is important to take the time to observe those traits and revisit those activities; It can be a great way to connect.

Try something different.

Habits and routines can be beneficial, but they can also be boring. Find ways to shake things up and bring the excitement of novelty into your relationships. Explore new things together and try new ways to do things together. It’s an exciting method of establishing a strong relationship and also an opportunity to look at each other from a fresh perspective.


Instead of getting overwhelmed by all the things that demand our attention, habituation allows us to be less attentive to certain aspects so that we can concentrate on other things. Habituation is a natural, regular part of our lives and how we live. It helps us be able to function in a world which is often flooded with information and sensory experiences.

Even if we want to ignore this learning process, we won’t be able to do it. This is due to the “get used to” notion associated with habituation.

Habituation can be beneficial because it lets you focus your attention and allows you to live peacefully amid the constant whirlwind of life.

It also helps reduce the effect of negative thoughts and feelings or events that you encounter in your day-to-day life.

The habituation approach can lead to healthy ways of coping, which is especially important when you’re trying to get rid of anxieties and fears.

In the same way, habituation can be a problem in our relationships with others. The ability to break the cycle of habituation of those we cherish can be a significant step towards creating relationships that give joy and love.

Habituation, the Enemy of Innovation | John Suh | TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool
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