What is the difference between sensory adaptation and habituation?

Adaptation is neurogically getting used to a stimulus. Because there are a lack of action potentials being fired, you do not perceive the stimulus and can’t even if you want to. Habituation is cognitively adapting. You choose to ignore the stimulus, so you can regain that initial sensation. It would be like ignoring the hum of an A/C.

These are definitely easy to mix up. Hopefully this will help!

Sensory adaptation is related to the process of sensation, and it describes how each of us stops perceiving something after we remain exposed to it for a certain duration of time. Have you ever eased your way into water that was too hot at first? Repeated stimulation of that sense diminishes the response over time.

Habituation describes a similar effect, but it’s no longer related to sensation and perception. Instead, it describes diminished responses to repeated stimuli by choice! Have you ever wanted to read a book, play a video game, or watch a movie while a family member made noise in another room? Through habituation, you make a cognitive choice to no longer notice those distractions.

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211



about for students for parents for teachers for schools & districts content team privacy contact


🥇 2020 Fiveable Olympics study plans upcoming events trivia hypertyper resources cram passes


community tiktok discord twitter instagram facebook careers

*ap® and advanced placement® are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

© fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.