"Habituation refers to a gradual reduction in the strength of a response due to repetitive stimulation. Looking, heart rate, and respiration may all decline, indicating a loss of interest. Once this has occurred, a new stimulus--some kind of change in the environment--causes responsiveness to return to a high level. This recovery is called dishabituation."
This is a quote from one of Laura Berk's many child development books. Laura is a genius of the child development world, and I used to be her editor. Anyway, I've been thinking about her and habituation, but especially dishabituation.And here's why.
Yesterday, I saw a woman pushing a dog in a wheelchair. No, it was not like the image below.
No, the dog I saw was actually in the kind of wheelchair that humans use, and it was strapped in, with multiple straps, and these straps were truly needed, as the dog did seem to be in a semi-standing position. It was not a very high-quality chair either, so it could not have been particularly easy to push. The woman who was pushing the chair (and the dog) seemed to herself have trouble walking. She moved with a kind of rocking motion, as if she had some disability in the hip region and perhaps also in her ankles or feet. She had another dog on a leash walking beside her.
Part of me wanted to greet her in some way as we approached each other--at least smile--to acknowledge the interesting sight. I wasn't sure I would actually want to say anything because, what would I say? "Nice dog"? Or "How did you come up with that?" I didn't want her to think I was making fun of her, because I have to confess that part of me felt it was a tad absurd. But just a tad. There was a large amount of devotion about the image as well.
I did glance at her face, to see if I might see any receptivity there, in case I might decide to deliver at least a smile or a nod. But no. My impression (which I understand is entirely my own) was that she was self-conscious, fully aware that someone might want to make fun of her, and meant to keep to herself.
Only a few blocks later, passing an apartment building I have passed likely thousands of times, I noticed for the first time that someone, years and years ago when this building was erected, had put some thought into the brickwork. Always before, it had just looked like a wall of bricks to me. Yesterday, however, I noticed a somewhat elaborate design. Not as elaborate or elegant as this.
So I'm thinking that the woman pushing the dog in the wheelchair dishabituated my habituation, opening my eyes to a new detail in my world.