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Threshold in the psychology context refers to the level or point at which a stimulus is strong enough to be detected or to produce a response. This concept is central in understanding sensory processing and perception, and it varies widely among individuals.


A threshold in psychology typically pertains to the minimum intensity of a stimulus required to be perceived or to cause a change in sensation or behavior. This concept is essential in the fields of sensory and perceptual psychology, where it helps define the limits of human perception.

Application Areas

Thresholds are critical in several areas within psychology:

  • Sensory Psychology: Studies thresholds for various senses, including vision, hearing, and touch, to understand sensory capabilities and limitations.
  • Neuropsychology: Investigates how thresholds may be affected by brain injuries or neurological disorders.
  • Behavioral Psychology: Looks at how different thresholds for stimuli can influence behavior and learning processes.

Well-Known Examples

Examples of thresholds in psychological research include:

  • Absolute Threshold: The smallest level of stimulus that can be detected by a sense, such as the faintest sound a person can hear.
  • Difference Threshold (or Just Noticeable Difference - JND): The minimum difference in intensity between two stimuli required for a person to detect them as distinct.

Treatment and Risks

Understanding sensory thresholds can help in diagnosing and treating sensory processing disorders. For example, individuals with a high pain threshold might not respond to pain in ways that would prompt timely medical intervention, which can be risky for their health. Conversely, those with a low threshold might experience discomfort and anxiety from ordinary sensory stimuli, leading to problems like sensory processing disorder or phobias.

Similar Terms

Related terms include:

  • Sensitivity: Often used interchangeably with threshold in the context of detecting stimuli.
  • Tolerance: In behavioral psychology, this refers to the diminished response to a stimulus after repeated exposure.
  • Absolute threshold
  • Difference threshold

Articles with 'Threshold' in the title

  • Absolute threshold: Absolute threshold refers to the minimum amount of sensory stimulation that can be detected 50 percent of the time. Other /More definition: Absolute threshold refers to the minimum amount of physical energy necessary to produce a sensation
  • Contrast threshold: Contrast threshold refers to the intensity difference that can just barely be seen between two (2) areas. This is usually measured using gratings with alternating light and dark bars
  • Differential threshold: Differential threshold refere to the amount that stimulation needs to change before a difference in that stimulation can be detected. In the psychology context, differential threshold refers to the smallest difference between two stimuli th . . .
  • Objective threshold: Objective threshold is a term which according to Cheesman and Merikle is the stimulus energy level that elicits truly random behavior. In comparison with Subjective threshold
  • Threshold of excitation: Threshold of excitation refers to the level of depolarization at which a brief stimulation triggers a rapid, massive electrical change by the membrane
  • Threshold Traits Analysis: Threshold Traits Analysis refers to a 33-item questionnaire developed by Lopez that identifies traits necessary to perform a job successfully. Threshold Traits Analysis is a statistical method used in psychology to determine the existence a . . .


In psychology, a threshold is the minimum point of stimulus intensity required to elicit a perceptual or behavioral response. It is a fundamental concept in sensory and perceptual psychology, helping to define and measure the limits of human and animal responses to various external stimuli.