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_1032-1



The increase in responsiveness due to a strong, usually painful stimulus.


Sensitization is a non-associative learning process that leads to increased responsiveness to a stimulus and is considered complementary to habituation. The increase in responsiveness or behavior is due to the exposure of a strong, most commonly noxious, stimulus that is causing pain. It is therefore logical to infer that sensitization’s adaptive value is high, as it protects an organism from predators and other potential dangers Eisenstein, Eisenstein, Smith (2001).

Theoretical Background

The most prominent non-associative learning theory was composed by Groves and Thompson (1970). Neurophysiological concepts were combined with concerns of human ethology and evolution to create the “dual process” theory. The dual process theory was the one which took into consideration both sensitization and habituation. This theory advocated that repeated stimulation would produce...

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


  1. Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (1998). What is the role of dopamine in reward: Hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience? Brain Research Reviews, 28(3), 309–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bliss, T. V., & Collingridge, G. L. (1993). A synaptic model of memory: Long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. Nature, 361(6407), 31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cooke, S. F., & Bliss, T. V. P. (2006). Plasticity in the human central nervous system. Brain, 129(7), 1659–1673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dennison, Z., Teskey, G. C., & Cain, D. P. (1995). Persistence of kindling: Effect of partial kindling, retention interval, kindling site, and stimulation parameters. Epilepsy Research, 21(3), 171–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Eisenstein, E. M., Eisenstein, D., & Smith, J. C. (2001). The evolutionary significance of habituation and sensitization across phylogeny: A behavioral homeostasis model. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 36(4), 251–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Goddard, G. V. (1967). Development of epileptic seizures through brain stimulation at low intensity. Nature, 214(5092), 1020–1021.  https://doi.org/10.1038/2141020a0.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Groves, P. M., & Thompson, R. F. (1970). Habituation: A dual-process theory. Psychological Review, 77(5), 419–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Morris, R., Anderson, E., Lynch, G., & Baudry, M. (1986). Selective impairment of learning and blockade of long-term potentiation by an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist, AP5. Nature, 319, 774–776.  https://doi.org/10.1038/319774a0.
  9. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Post, R. M. (2007). Kindling and sensitization as models for affective episode recurrence, cyclicity, and tolerance phenomena. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 31(6), 858–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Racine, R. (1978). Kindling: The first decade. Neurosurgery, 3(2), 234–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Robinson, T. E., & Berridge, K. C. (2008). The incentive sensitization theory of addiction: Some current issues. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1507), 3137–3146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Steketee, J. D., & Kalivas, P. W. (2011). Drug wanting: Behavioral sensitization and relapse to drug-seeking behavior. Pharmacological Reviews, 63(2), 348–365.CrossRefGoogle 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