What is Habituation?
Habituation is a form of a learning process that is not associative which means that the learning is developed from a fundamental biological process that does not require the individual to be aware or to be motivated by the stimuli. With this kind of learning process individuals are able to identify new information from old information. This also helps them determine stimuli that are meaningful from the irrelevant ones. In addition, Habituation also refers to the decrease in behavior and synaptic transmission where a neuron or what we also call as the nerve cell gets connected with other neurons or what we also call as effectors. Habituation simply means that as psychological and behavioral responses to a stimulus decrease the more it is exposed to the stimuli over a long period of time.
Psychological significance in humans
In Habituation, humans do not have to be conscious or even be aware of the stimuli. If an individual is new to the environment or is still not used to the new process, the individual seems to notice every single detail around him. However as soon as this individual gets used to the environment or the process through constant exposure for a long period of time, this person will no longer notice the same things that he has found unusual to him. Putting that into context, an individual who has only learned how to drive a car a few days ago will be more aware of how he/she drives the car. His /her senses are aware of every move that he/she makes and notices every single detail that he/she encounters. As soon as this new driver gets used to how the driving process goes, everything will gradually become unnoticed. This person will soon be able to drive even if his mind is focused on things other than on his driving. This shows that habituation is essential to humans. Due to habituation, man is able to identify new and old information. Moreover, man is able to ignore continuous stimuli and focus more on the new stimuli that will be encountered. On the other hand, when a second stimulus is added to the primary stimulus, a temporary dishabituation occurs, which causes a heightened habituated response towards the primary stimulus until the individual soon identifies the differences between two different stimuli encountered.
Processes of Learning and Habituation
Experiments with sea slugs have shown how the nervous system reacts during habituation. Observations from the experiment with sea slugs explain how they withdraw their gill whenever their siphon is mechanically stimulated. The movement of the gills was caused by the receptors which have been activated by the stimulus in the siphon of the sea slug. This reaction is called the reflex circuit. When the receptors are being activated by the same stimulus for a long period of time, this causes the decrease in the reaction to the stimulus which shows no change in the sensitivity of the receptors. This only shows that all living things, including man experience habituation through the same process.