Habituation is a biological term for a basic, universal form of learning: when stimuli keep repeating or are present at all times, biological organisms innately respond by decreasing their reaction to that stimulus.
More plainly put: “If that sight, sound, or thing is just there and it’s not dangerous to me, I can tune it out after a while.“
In neurodivergence, ‘habituation’ seems to work differently
Repeated or ongoing stimuli, like the low hum of a fridge
- will be acknowledged and gradually tuned out by a neurotypical brain
- and cannot be tuned out and will keep causing compounding stress for a neurodivergent brain.
Sensory difficulties and overwhelm are likely linked to reduced habituation in autistic people. 1 This means that preventing sensory overwhelm has to include creating an inclusive, neuroaffirming environment and offering adaptation options for people, like noise-cancelling headphones and quiet booths.« Back to the Glossary