Monotony (psychology)

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In psychology, monotony is the state of reduced psychological activity, which also manifests itself as tiredness or a reduction in performance or in (for the person) unusual fluctuations in performance. The condition is caused by the absence of stimulating stimuli . The monotony can be weak or strong; a strong monotony can be very painful for the individual or, if it lasts for a long time, extremely harmful.

Another consequence of a low-stimulus environment is a reduction in the individual's ability and willingness to learn (in humans and animals; for the latter see Harry Harlow and Lauren Slater, literature). This also turns monotony into a pedagogical topic - with the focus: How must the educational situation be designed so that it avoids monotony or how does an educator create a stimulating (i.e., learning- optimal, conducive) environment so that learning processes are initiated, promoted or promoted.

A specific form of monotony is highlighted by RA Spitz in his impressive study " Hospitalism ", in which he describes the situation of small children in poorly managed children's homes who expect children to spend their lives in beds that are or are rarely met by caregivers offer hardly any incentives. Your radius of action is limited to the bed. The consequences for these children are threatening their very existence: they later suffer from a pronounced lack of intelligence (and willingness to learn; often irreversible) as well as from depression and other serious illnesses. (See the literature)

Monotonous situations

Situations marked by monotony are low in stimuli and require the long-term performance of one or similar monotonous activities.

Activities that meet the "double condition of monotony" are particularly problematic:

  • They require full attention (i.e. they do not allow any relieving sideline activities - neither motor nor experience-wise)
  • it is not possible to think about the activity (lack of content and meaning). It is therefore a question of a quantitative and / or qualitative insufficient challenge.

Monotony is therefore a topic of industrial psychology : The effects of low-stimulus and constantly uniform activities (movements)

  • on the psyche of the worker and
  • on productivity.

Monotony is more important for performance than fatigue, as it leads to a narrowing of the "scope of attention" and thus ultimately to a decrease in psychological activity. Time and again, attempts have been made to positively influence these effects by fading in music, movement and entertainment.


This leads to fatigue , lack of interest and feelings of boredom . Typically, there is a sudden regression of symptoms and performance improvement when you change jobs . This is an important feature for differentiating the monotony from mental fatigue , in which the tiredness and exhaustion symptoms only regress in a time-consuming manner through recovery.

Mechanization of the world and monotony

Even before the First World War, Walter Rathenau argued that the trend towards specialization and abstraction in the machine world had shaped the mental habitus of people so much that all areas of life were increasingly determined by complicated uniformity.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. according to the Lexicon of Psychology. Volume 2, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1971, p. 575.
  2. A. Karsten: Lexicon of Psychology. Herder Verlag, Freiburg 1997.
  3. Lexicon of Psychology. Volume 2, 1971, p. 575.
  4. ^ Walter Rathenau: The mechanization of the world. Social science series no.7, Neckar-Verlag, Schwenningen 1948.