In an earlier article, we talked about pre-associative learning as the mechanism that species use to respond to medium stimuli and focus on the habituation process.
On this occasion, we will discuss the second type of pre-associative learning: Raising-Awareness.
What is awareness?
We understood habituation as the decline of an organism’s response to a stimulus by a continuous presentation. Raising-Awareness is the opposite process, as it involves increasing an agency’s response to a stimulus by merely presenting it. In other words, it was to reach a state of growing activation by receiving a type of stimulus.
For us to understand each other, the most representative case is the hated “beep-beep” of the alarm clock, when it rings, deeply upsets us. A kid’s kicks, the sound of the ambulance, the screams. they are environmental stimuli to which people tend to overreact, so it is said that we are sensitized to them. It is easy to become aware of the stimuli mentioned above, as they are very disturbing stimuli.
When awareness does not depend on the intensity
There are, however, a number of stimuli that are not characterized by being intense and yet we are sensitizing them. An excellent example of this are those things we say that give us “grimace”, which can be very particular like touching your hair when it is wet, crunching your bones or more extended like scratching the slate with your nails or chewing silver paper.
Generally speaking, when someone is in a state of high activation, the process of raising awareness of environmental stimuli is accentuated. When we are angry, under a lot of stress, or with a huge Sunday hangover, any stimulation of the environment can alter us and become real beasts.
From now on, when we see someone very sensitive, we must understand that he is in a moment of high awareness with the environment in which he finds himself, so it is better to let him enjoy the silence.
Combining Habituation And Awareness
The same stimulus can lead to habituation or awareness, depending on the intensity and learning history of the person.
For this reason, we act with surprise when we overreact to stimuli that we have not even been able to perceive. In such cases, we are accustomed to them, while the other person is sensitized to the stimulus.
The Length Of The Process
In most cases, sensitization occurs only in the short term, since this mode allows you to enter a state of alert to new phenomena and potentially dangerous.
It can, however, be chronicled, which is a problem. If their duration is longer in time, awareness may lead to future stresses that are in danger of being associated with other stimuli of the environment by classical conditioning and may lead to future phobias.
Still, not everything that makes us react is bad. Going down the street and automatically recognizing the faces of acquaintances, or receiving the caresses and contact of someone we wish to find more and more pleasant, makes us reconcile with this mechanism inherited from Evolution.
It is necessary to understand that this process is highly adaptive since it allows us to focus attention on stimuli that could endanger us. However, we are no longer live in caves, nor we surrounded by predators, so in an advanced society, this learning mechanism present in all species often plays against us.