Orienting response, also called orienting reflex, is the reflex that causes an organism to respond instinctively and  immediately to a change in its environment. The phenomenon was first described by Russian physiologist Sechenov in the 1850s in his book “Reflexes of the Brain”, and the term was coinedby Ivan Pavlov who also referred to it as the “What is it?” or ‘what is different about this moment’ reflex. This instinctive and innate reaction responds to a potential threat by dropping everything and orienting to the change in the environment.

When people see a bright flash or light or hear a sudden loud noise, they orient their attention to it even before they identify what it is. This orienting reflex seems to be present from birth. It is adaptive in helping people react quickly to events that call for immediate action. It is instinctual and is a survival imperative.