Mental satiety

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Psychological satiety describes a phenomenon that can arise when an action is carried out frequently, if it is experienced as a repetition.

An activity that is initially perceived as pleasant or neutral loses its positive prompting character for the person acting in the course of frequent repetition - there is a pronounced aversion to the action. This aversion "may increase to such an extent that the person, despite a certain external compulsion and despite good will and great effort, can no longer do this work and therefore breaks off", according to the study Psychological Saturation , with which the Finnish psychologist Anitra Karsten first extensively investigated this phenomenon in 1928. Karsten's study was part of the Berlin experimental program of her teacher, the Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin , on "Action and Affect Psychology", with the help of which he developed his psychological field theory of the person.

Karsten's investigation showed that saturation usually does not increase in a straight line, but goes through different phases. This can temporarily lead to a "recovery" phase in which the activity is acceptable again; however, this is usually followed by a jump to an even higher degree of saturation than was reached before the "recovery" phase. According to Lewin, this process can be characterized as a transition from a psychological “hunger phase” to the “satiety phase” and then into the “oversaturation” phase. The latter can "sometimes result in a very long or even final dislike", even disgust , for the action carried out.

It is therefore obvious that Karsten's research on psychological satiety has recently also been used to explain the phenomenon of burnout - Kurt Lewin had already pointed out the connection between psychological satiety and "exhaustion of the will to do a job". The concept of mental saturation has already been incorporated into the EN ISO 10075 standard , an international guideline for work design with regard to mental workload .

See also


  • Karsten, Anitra (1928): Psychological satiety . In: Psychological Research 10, 142–254
  • Lewin, Kurt (1928): The importance of “psychological satiety” for some problems in psychotechnology. In: Psychotechnische Zeitschrift 3 , 182–188. Reprinted in: Lück, HE (Ed., 2009): Kurt Lewin, Schriften zur Angewandte Psychologie. Essays - Lectures - Reviews . Vienna: Krammer.
  • Plaum, Ernst (1991): "Psychological saturation" - a concept of the Lewin school that has not received enough attention . Gestalt Theory 13 (3), 159-164.
  • Schulz-Hardt, Stefan; Rott, Alexandra; Meinken, Imke & Dieter Frey (2001): A further developed model of psychological satiety. In: Psychologische Rundschau 52 (3), 141–149.
  • Metz-Göckel, Hellmuth (2011): Anitra Karsten - Mental Saturation . In: S. Volkmann-Raue, S. & HE Lück (ed.): Important female psychologists of the 20th century . Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, 2nd edition, 193–206.
  • Soff, Marianne (2012): From mental satiety to exhaustion of the will to work. Kurt Lewin and Anitra Karsten as pioneers of burnout research. In: Gestalt Theory 33 (2), 183-200.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Anitra Karsten: Mental satiety . 1928, p. 244.
  2. Lewin 1928, p. 275
  3. cf. Soff 2012
  4. Kurt Lewin, 1928, p. 186; see. also Soff 2012.