per·​sev·​er·​a·​tion | \ pər-ˌse-və-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce perseveration (audio) \
plural perseverations

Definition of perseveration

: continuation of something (such as an activity or thought) usually to an extreme degree or beyond a desired point specifically, psychology : the continual involuntary repetition of a thought or behavior Perseveration is said to occur when the patient continues to give the answer to the previous question in response to new questions. — Lewis Senior One patient had intermittent perseveration of speech and writing. — Frank Adams et al. The perseverations associated with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] may be qualitatively different … than the repetitive and intrusive thoughts and actions associated with OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder]. — Susan L. Hyman et al.

First Known Use of perseveration

1907, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for perseveration

borrowed from German Perseveration (in Perseverationstendenz "tendency toward perseveration"), borrowed from Latin persevērātiōn-, persevērātiō "persistence in a course of action," from persevērāre "to persist in a course of action or an attitude in spite of opposition, keep on" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at persevere

Note: The term Perseverationstendenz was introduced by the German psychologist Georg Elias Müller (1850-1934) and his student Alfons Pilzecker in Experimetelle Beiträge zur Lehre vom Gedächtniss, Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, Ergänzungsband 1 (Leipzig, 1900), p 58.

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The first known use of perseveration was in 1907

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Last Updated

4 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Perseveration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

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per·​sev·​er·​a·​tion | \ pər-ˌsev-ə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce perseveration (audio) \

Medical Definition of perseveration

: the continual involuntary repetition of a thought or behavior Rocking from side to side, finger wiggling, and repetition of words are all examples of perseveration. More specifically, the rocking and finger wiggling are examples of action-related perseveration demonstrated by many people with autism.— Tina Arora, Education


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