Why do we become bored of songs, films, stories, jokes, food after being exposed to them or experiencing them multiple times?

Why is it when our cortex becomes adequate at predicting the outcomes of a song, film, joke it seems to be less enjoyable, is this the case? And if so what is the neuroscience behind this phenomena that stops our pleasure center being activated? I get the evolutionary aspect of why this maybe the case but I wanted more detail on the neuroscience side.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question. While you await an answer try looking for the answer yourself to possibly show some initial research yourself first. You can still update this question with any new information you find. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Nov 26, 2012 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ If I find anything that answers this directly or something indirectly that could lead to an answer I'd post it. I'm not confident on the idea that when our cortex becomes capable of working out the outcome we get bored of it, I still find jokes funny when I know the punchline, I like songs I know all the words too, so it might be something else. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2012 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ Check 'habituation' en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habituation. Even though this applies to relatively low-level behaviour, it might provide some explanation for your question. $\endgroup$
    – jokel
    Nov 26, 2012 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Well it seems like I was looking for hedonic adaptation, but now I'm looking for an answer to why this happens on a neuro scientific level. The link you provided as well seems like the same thing what is strange why both are called different things, I will have to read up. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2012 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ Good question! Here's a similar question: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/1792/… a hint for research -check pandora Internet radio. It plays a lot of music that people originally like, but it gets tedious after many replays. Maybe there was some research on why. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Nov 29, 2012 at 2:16

1 Answer 1


This will probably only answer part of your query.

I think that this is an example of 'habituation', which is a decrease in response to stimuli. There has been some research in this field, a particularly good reference is "Habituation: the difference between familiar and unfamiliar stimuli", where the authors contend that the underlying cause goes beyond 'sensory adaptation' and 'muscle fatigue', and that the reasons and neurological responses are quite unique for each situation.

An important point from the reference above is:

There is in fact a wealth of examples from a wide range of human and animal behaviour where isolated responses wane as the stimulus which provokes them recurs, without the intervention of muscular fatigue or sensory adaption (Hinde, 1970). However, the scope of habituation is so comprehensive, embracing almost every type of behaviour, that as Hinde says the `underlying processes' must vary enormously.

I hope this helps.


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