Habituation — The Most Basic Form of Learning

To understand how people learn, it is best to take a look at children between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four months. They have a hunger for knowledge that cannot be touched by even the most studious of adults. They are driven to learn by experience and observation. If you have had a child, you are fully aware that he will pick up anything he can get his hands on and possibly even mouth it. While this may be an annoyance to a parent, it is a part of the learning process for a child.

Through observation, we also know that babies have the ability to remember. When given a choice between two objects, a baby will glance at the object he is already familiar with and then reach for the object he has not seen before. He remembers already learning about the first object.

While a child might not be able to tell you what he is studying and what he wants to learn, through observation you can figure it out rather easily. Pay attention to a child who is surrounded by several objects. You will notice that he will quickly turn his attention to those objects that are new to him. Once he becomes acquainted with one new object, he will discard it and turn his attention to another. This process is called habituation and is the most basic form of learning. A child becomes habituated to an item, gets bored with it, and seeks out an unfamiliar object, thus creating a cycle of learning.

Habituation shows that humans have an innate desire to learn about and experience new things. It also shows that people are able to distinguish differences in objects, patterns, colors, and textures and remember those differences. While habituation is the earliest and most basic form of learning, it is not the only process through which people learn.

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