Latent inhibition is a mental process in which an individual does not create any associations or meanings with a presented stimulus until a later period. Psychologists categorize this process under the Classical Conditioning type of learning. A person does not learn or experience any change from the initial exposure to a stimuli.
A common cause for latent inhibition is that the person is unfamiliar with the stimulus and automatically deems it insignificant or irrelevant to him. This lack of awareness tends to be involuntary, meaning the brain automatically carries out the process. This is one way to make sure that sensory overload does not happen, which can make an individual lose his concentration on a certain task. This may cause some learning delay about a specific object, but it also helps a person to learn and focus more on important stimuli.
Although the mental process is an automatic reaction, there are still people who find it difficult to disregard stimuli. These people are said to possess a low latent inhibition, making them notice irrelevant and trivial stimuli. People with this trait are easily distracted and highly sensitive; both traits may lead to social ineptness. The effects of low latency can depend on a person’s intelligence quotient (IQ). If a person has a high IQ, probably 130 and above, his low latent inhibition can manifest in creativity, while people whose IQs are lower than average can undergo psychosis.
A gifted or a genius individual with low latent inhibition—along with a good memory—tends to allow all kinds of information to be processed, leading to creative and innovative thoughts. They are also more capable of abstract and conceptual thinking. The ability to sift through all information and distinguish what is useful from what is not also contributes to creativity; the lack of this ability can cause a disordered mental state. Some scientists believe that latent inhibition is one way of explaining the correlation between genius and madness.
Low latent inhibition may account for why some historical people led troublesome lives. Robert Goddard, for example, was ridiculed in his time for his idea of rockets. Today, many space explorations were achieved because of his invention of the liquid-fueled rocket. Socrates, a thinker and philosopher, was not thought of highly by his peers. He was labeled as an immoral because of his ideas and was even sentenced to death. His contributions on the principles of knowledge, virtue, and ethics still hold a large influence in the field of humanities.
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