You May Not Have Noticed But Habituation Just Happens

Your brain learns to block out the noises that it hears all the time.

Habituation is a very specific term when it comes to psychology.  It’s something that’s incredibly, incredibly natural.  So as soon as there’s a stimulus that you're hearing often you do become habituated to it. 

So for instance one of my favorite examples comes from my personal experience.  My freshman year of college I had a huge church right outside my window and the bells would ring.  And on weekends the bells would ring and I was a college freshman, I wanted to sleep.  At first they always woke me up.  And I got to the point where I didn’t even hear them; I didn’t realize that the bells were ringing. 

It’s not that I made a conscious effort to habituate. Your brain learns to block out the noises that it hears all the time.  And the same can be true of vision so that’s why you often, if you ask me what do I pass on my way to work every day I might not be able to answer.  We think "Oh, I know exactly what I've passed but because I do it every day I don't pay attention to it because I’ve become habituated to all of those sights and I may not even notice that a store has closed or a new store has opened instead unless something draws my attention to it and I’m out of my habituated state."

So it just happens. The active part is not habituation but withstanding habituation. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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