Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


  • Androulla Ioannou
  • Xenia Anastassiou-HadjicharalambousEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1028-1



Habituation is a process of diminishing responsiveness due to the presentation of a repeated stimulus.


Habituation constitutes an essential process of behavioral adaptation, as it assists in filtering out the large amounts of information received from the surrounding environment that are likely irrelevant or less important, thus shifting attention to more important to survival or urgent information. The latter gives an evolutionary advantage as a result.

Theoretical Background

Several influential nonassociative theories have historically been proposed Thompson (2009). These theories constitute the early work of Sokolov (1960) and Wagner’s (1979) revision of Konorski’s Gnostic Hypothesis, and Groves and Thompson’s (1970) dual process theory.

Sokolov (1960) was the first to propose a comprehensive theory of habituation (“Stimulus-Model Comparator Theory”). In short, Sokolov’s theory stated that when a stimulus...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Davis, M. (1970). Effects of interstimulus interval length and variability on startle-response habituation in the rat. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 72(2), 177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Gagliano, M., Renton, M., Depczynski, M., & Mancuso, S. (2014). Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters. Oecologia, 175(1), 63–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Groves, P. M., & Thompson, R. F. (1970). Habituation: A dual-process theory. Psychological Review, 77(5), 419–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hinde, R. A. (1970). Behavioral habituation. In G. Horn & R. A. Hinde (Eds.), Short-term changes in neural activity and behavior. London/New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Leaton, R. N. (1976). Long-term retention of the habituation of lick suppression and startle response produced by a single auditory stimulus. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 2(3), 248.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Petrinovich, L. (1984). A two-factor dual-process theory of habituation and sensitization. In H. Peeke (Ed.), Habituation, sensitization, and behavior (pp. 17–55). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Petrinovich, L., & Widaman, F. K. (1984). An evaluation of statistical strategies to analyze repeated-measures data. In H. Peeke (Ed.), Habituation, sensitization, and behavior (pp. 156–200). Orlando: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  8. Rankin, C. H., & Broster, B. S. (1992). Factors affecting habituation and recovery from habituation in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Behavioral Neuroscience, 106(2), 239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Rankin, C. H., Abrams, T., Barry, R. J., Bhatnager, S., Clayton, D. F., Colombo, J., Coppola, G., Geyer, M. A., Glanzman, D. L., Marsland, S., McSweeney, F. K., Wilson, D. A., Chun-Fang, W., & Thompson, R. F. (2009). Habituation revisited: An updated and revised description of the behavioural characteristics of habituation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 92(2), 135–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Sokolov, E. N. (1960). Neuronal models and the orienting influence. In M. A. Brazier (Ed.), The central nervous system and behavior: III (pp. 187–275). New York: Macy Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Teyler, T. J., Chiaia, N., DiScenna, P., & Roemer, R. A. (1984). Habituation of central nervous system evoked potentials: Intrinsic habituation examined in neocortex, allocortex, and mesencephalon. In H. Peeke (Ed.), Habituation, sensitization, and behavior (pp. 251–283). Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Thompson, R. F. (2009). Habituation: A history. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 92(2), 127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Thompson, R. F., & Spencer, W. A. (1966). Habituation: A model phenomenon for the study of neuronal substrates of behavior. Psychological Review, 73, 16–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wagner, A. R. (1979). Habituation and memory. In Mechanisms of learning and motivation: A memorial volume for Jerzy Konorski (pp. 53–82). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Androulla Ioannou
    • 1
  • Xenia Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus