Latent inhibition is a technical term used in classical conditioning [see also: http://eidetisch.tumblr.com/tagged/classical-conditioning] to refer to the observation that a familiar stimulus takes longer to acquire meaning (as a signal or conditioned stimulus) than a new stimulus.
The term “latent inhibition” dates back to Lubow and Moore (1959).
The LI effect is “latent” in that it is not exhibited in the stimulus pre-exposure phase, but rather in the subsequent test phase.
“Inhibition”, here, simply connotes that the effect is expressed in terms of relatively poor learning.
The LI effect is extremely robust, appearing in all mammalian species that have been tested and across many different learning paradigms, thereby suggesting some adaptive advantages, such as protecting the organism from associating irrelevant stimuli with other, more important, events.