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Adaptation-Level Theory

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Definition

Adaptation-level theory describes the process by which a person becomes insensitive to the effects of constant stimuli.

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Early research on adaptation focused on sensory stimuli, such as the effects of continual exposure to unchanging visual, auditory, or olfactory stimuli (Helson, 1964). This research found that the initial effects that one experiences upon being exposed to an unchanging sensory stimulus quickly dissipate with time. Upon entering a bakery, for example, a customer may immediately notice the smell of coffee and doughnuts. After being in the bakery for a few minutes, however, he or she will no longer experience those initial smells. This change in the customer’s sensory experiences occurred because the smell-inducing stimulus is constant. That is, the molecules that produced the initial sensory experience are still present in the air, but the customer has adapted to their constant presence.

In addition to occurring for unchanging sensory stimuli,...

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_25
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References

  • Bowling, N. A., Beehr, T. A., Wagner, S. H., & Libkuman, T. M. (2005). Adaptation-level theory, opponent process theory, and dispositions: An integrated approach to the stability of job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1044–1053.

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  • Helson, H. (1964). Adaptation-level theory. Oxford, England: Harper & Row.

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  • Lucas, R. E. (2007). Adaptation and the set-point model of subjective well-being: Does happiness change after major life events? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 75–79.

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  • Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.

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Correspondence to Nathan Bowling .

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© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

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Bowling, N. (2014). Adaptation-Level Theory. In: Michalos, A.C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_25

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