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Breaking ‘bad habits’: a dynamical perspective on habit formation and change

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Abstract

Much ,of our ,daily behaviour ,is habitual. Habits are defined as behaviours that are performed,with a minimum,of cognitive effort. Habits allow for an effective use of our limited cognitive capacities. However, due to this automatising of behaviour, habits are less susceptible for change than reasoned behaviour. Especially when ,a habit provides positive outcomes ,in the ,present but detrimental outcomes on the long run, one can speak of a ‘bad habit’. Such ‘bad habits’ are hard to change ,because ,cognitive information ,on negative outcomes,will hardly affect the automatised ,behavioural scripts. This chapter describes the emergence ,of habits ,from a dynamical ,perspective. This implies that a perspective,is drawn,on what,type of processes,play a role at what,stage inthe development,of a habit. This dynamical,perspective provides indications for effective strategies to break habits. 1: habitual behaviour
Breaking ‘bad habits’: a dynamical perspective on habit
formation and change
Jager, W. (2003) Breaking ’bad habits’: a dynamical perspective on
habit formation and change. in: L. Hendrickx, W. Jager, L. Steg,
(Eds.) Human Decision Making and Environmental Perception.
Understanding and Assisting Human Decision Making in Real-life
Settings. Liber Amicorum for Charles Vlek. Groningen: University
of Groningen.
Wander Jager
1
1
Faculty of Management and Organization
University of Groningen
Landleven 5
9700 AV Groningen, the Netherlands
w.jager@bdk.rug.nl
Abstract. Much of our daily behaviour is habitual. Habits are defined as
behaviours that are performed with a minimum of cognitive effort. Habits allow
for an effective use of our limited cognitive capacities. However, due to this
automatising of behaviour, habits are less susceptible for change than reasoned
behaviour. Especially when a habit provides positive outcomes in the present
but detrimental outcomes on the long run, one can speak of a ‘bad habit’. Such
‘bad habits’ are hard to change because cognitive information on negative
outcomes will hardly affect the automatised behavioural scripts. This chapter
describes the emergence of habits from a dynamical perspective. This implies
that a perspective is drawn on what type of processes play a role at what stage
in the development of a habit. This dynamical perspective provides indications
for effective strategies to break habits.
1: habitual behaviour
Much of our behaviour takes the shape of repetitive actions: in the supermarket we
grab our usual brand of coffee, we may follow a specific route in travelling to our
work and we drink coffee in the morning. All these behaviours have in common that
they are being performed with a minimum of thinking. Behaviours as such, where
actions are repeatedly being performed without deliberating too much, can be grouped
under the concept of habits. Habits have been demonstrated empirically to strongly
determine the behaviour of people in relative stable situations, e.g. modality choice in
transportation (e.g., Bamberg & Schmidt, 2003; Gärling, Fujii & Boe, 2001; Aarts &
Dijksterhuis, 2000; Aarts, Verplanken & Knippenberg, 1998)
Although one may be very conscious about performing the habit, e.g.,
preparing coffee in the morning, the actual performance of the habit may involve very
little thinking. This is because the actual behaviour has been automatised to a large
extent. Habits have large benefits for our performance in daily life: instead of thinking
about routine decision problems we keep our minds free to think about issues that are
not routine like (e.g., Posner & Snyder, 1975; Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977; Shiffrin &
Schneider, 1977; Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998). Hence, habits are
mechanisms that allow us to efficiently allocate our limited cognitive capabilities. As
such, the use of habits can be listed under the heading of procedural rationality, which
has been coined by Simon (1976) as opposed to substantive rationality that is
exclusively outcome oriented.
Habits provide a significant advantage in terms of savings on cognitive
effort. This is especially functional in contexts where the decision situations hardly
change, and thorough elaboration would always come up with the same decision.
However, the associated lack of elaboration may also yield serious disadvantages.
Basically, the use of habits causes that new information is not taken into account
when performing the behaviour, nor that one is actively seeking for new information.
Also small (structural) changes are often not being noticed when people behave
habitually. Hence, whereas the habit may originate from a process in finding out the
optimal behaviour given the prevailing circumstances, the circumstances may since
then have changed such that alternative behaviour would yield better outcomes. For
example, one may habitually buy the usual brand of coffee without being aware of a
new brand of qualitative good eco-certificated coffee that would be preferred by the
decision-maker. Also, information may have become available concerning negative
outcomes of performing the habit. Even if a person is aware that the current habit is
non-optimal because of such negative outcomes, this information may not affect the
performance as long as the direct outcomes of the habit are satisfactory. For example,
Verplanken & Faess (1999) found that good intentions are not enacted if they are
interfered with by existing habits. In such situation the short term rewards are
inconsistent with one’s long-term intentions and goals (e.g., Ouellette & Wood,
1998). Here we enter the realm of so-called ‘bad habits’. These bad habits may relate
to behaviours that have positive direct outcomes for the self, but negative
consequences on the long run, such as smoking, speeding and a fat diet. Other habits
may yield positive outcomes for the self, but at the cost of aggregate and future
outcomes. These can be addressed as collectively ‘bad habits’. Hence much social or
environmentally detrimental behaviour can be addressed as ‘bad habits’, such as using
a cell phone in an inappropriate situation, littering and using the car for very short
distances.
Obviously, in many situations where it would be beneficial to change
existing behaviour one is being confronted with the challenge to change existing
habits. The strength of the habit here is an important determinant. The more frequent
a habit is being performed, the more automated the choice process often will be.
Hence the (yearly) habit to visit a certain holiday destination may be weaker than the
(daily) habit of drinking coffee. As a consequence, many scholars define habits as
behaviour that is being performed often (daily) in stable contexts. Ajzen (1987)
pointed out the tautological reasoning behind this definition, and concluded that using
past behaviour in causal models of human action is useless. As such, ultimately it is
not the frequency of behaviour that determines the strength of a habit, but the degree
to which the behaviour has been automated and is being performed without cognitive
elaboration. Thus, the more automated the behaviour is, the stronger the habit. When
habits are weak, this process of change may be relative easy to initiate, but the
stronger the habit, the harder it appears to change behaviour. To approach this
challenge of changing ‘bad habits’, it is first necessary to understand how a habit is
formed and what principles apply to the perseverance of habits.
2: Habit formation
The distinction between habits and reasoned behaviour is an old one, and has already
been discussed extensively by James (1890). Current perspectives on habitual
behaviour stress the importance of cognitive scripts that are being executed in familiar
situations (Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Svenson, 1990; Schank, 1982; Schank & Abelson,
1977). A script reflects a specific rule stating that in a certain type of situation a
specific response is adequate. As such a script represents the knowledge structure
behind the habit, and thus is not equal to the habit itself (e.g., Abelson, 1981). Situational
cues may thus trigger the performance of a habit automatically (e.g., Verplanken & Aarts,
1999). If a situation is recognised as one in which a given behaviour is appropriate, a
person appeals to such a script instead of comparing and elaborating the available options
over and over again. Frequent repetition of behaviour will result in the development of
such a script (e.g., Fiske & Taylor, 1991). A script hardly requires cognitive effort to be
executed. Thus, individuals do not have to explicitly evaluate all aspects of the available
options any more, which enables them to use their limited cognitive abilities in other
domains. This has empirically been validated by e.g., Wood, Quinn & Kashy (2002), who
demonstrated that during habitual behaviour people report having thoughts that are not
related to the task, whereas during non-habitual behaviour people report task-related
thoughts. On a very basic level this script reflects a recognition heuristic (Gigerenzer &
Goldstein, 1996; Goldstein & Gigerenzer, 1999), which holds that when confronted with
two objects one will select the one that is being recognised. Although the recognition
heuristic has been identified using objects instead of (more complex) decision-situations,
we assume the same recognition principle applies. A script can thus be conceived as a
response on a stimulus (Ronis et al., 1989), and hence the principles of classical and
operant conditioning seem to apply on this behaviour (see, e.g., Pavlov, 1927; Skinner,
1938; 1953). Here the decision-situation functions as the stimulus, and the behaviour as
the response. The closer the reinforcement follows after performing the behaviour, and the
more often a reinforcement follows after performing behaviour, the stronger the stimulus-
response relation or script gets. It is also likely that behaviour that is positively being
reinforced will be tested in comparable situations (contingent reinforcement). These
principles of conditioning can be linked with fylogenetic older brain structures, as the
principles of conditioning have been demonstrated in many studies using e.g., rats and
pigeons. Also the specific recognition heuristic has been observed in the Norway rat
(Galef, 1987). In another vein, neuropsychological studies linked non-cognitive habit and
skill memory to fylogenetic older brain structures such as the basal ganglia, cerebellum
and motor-neocortex (Gabrieli, 1998; Squire, Knowlton & Musen, 1993). This linking of
scripts or stimulus-response relation to specific brain structures is important in
understanding how behaviour may become automatised, and less accessible for cognitive
reasoning associated with newer brain structures (cerebral cortex).
However, no matter how little cognitive effort performing a script may
require, the habitual behaviour in question has been performed for the first time at a
given moment. This first performance may have originated from various decision-
processes; for instance, one may have deliberated about performing the behaviour, the
behaviour may have been learned from one’s parents or peers, or one may have
imitated the successful behaviour of others. Andersen (1982) distinguishes three
stages in the development of a (new) habit. In the first stage the information that is
relevant for the behaviour is encoded in an internal representation. This so-called
declarative stage involves cognitive processing as people rehearse the information in
their working memory to keep it available for the interpretative procedures that guide
behaviour. For example, people may encode the packaging design of a new brand of
coffee, which helps them to retrieve this coffee on a next buying occasion. Attitudes,
along with other considerations, are important in the initiation of habits (Ronis, Yates
& Kirscht, 1989). Hence ecological and social considerations may play a role
alongside aspects such as price, taste and appeal of the packaging of the coffee. In the
second stage, people convert the information in a procedural form by practice. In this
so-called knowledge compilation stage the habit is being formed, diminishing the
necessary cognitive effort. In the procedural stage the habit has been formed. Still
changes occur, in particular the speeding up of the process (script development, Fiske
& Taylor, 1991). The cognitive linking of stimulus-response (or script) will strengthen the
more often favourable outcomes in the short run (reinforcement) result from performing a
particular behaviour (response) in a specific situation (stimulus). This increases the chance
of performing the same behaviour the next time when encountering a similar situation.
This effect can be described as reinforcement learning. Experiencing direct positive
outcomes after performing the behaviour increases the motivation to repeat that behaviour.
An important condition for habits to develop is that individuals are able and motivated to
repeat that earlier behaviour (Verhallen and Pieters, 1984). Hence the outcomes of the
behaviour must be satisfactory. Some outcomes may emerge directly, whereas other
outcomes may be delayed. Also, some outcomes will affect the person directly,
whereas other outcomes may affect larger groups of people. We assume that the
experience of satisfaction will be dominated by the short-term personal outcomes, as these
will emerge directly after performing the behaviour, and have the greatest personal impact.
To understand how outcomes relate to the emergence of a habit we have to
understand how basic human needs are being satisfied. Max-Neef (1992) developed
an empirically grounded taxonomy of human needs comprising nine needs:
subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity
and freedom. Habits may yield outcomes that relate to these different needs. Sometimes, a
habit may satisfy a single need. In such a case Max-Neefs speaks about the behaviour as a
singular satisfyer. A habit may also satisfy multiple needs at the same time. However, it is
also possible that a habit may satisfy one need at the cost of another need. The
complicatedness of habitual behaviour partly resides in the different time and scale
dynamics of the underlying needs. For example, a preference for a fat diet may have
biological roots in optimising our calorie intake (need for subsistence), but in our modern
times such a diet may cause obesitas in the long run and hence jeorpardise our health
(need for subsistence). Hence, in a fylogenetic old brain structure we are ‘programmed by
evolution’ to like fat food, and our need for subsistence is immediately satisfied when
eating such food. On the other hand, on a higher cognitive level we may be aware of the
negative health effects of persisting the habit of a fat diet.
The distinction between different needs is important, as these needs relate to
outcomes that differ with regard to their visibility for the habitual mechanism due to their
cyclical reward pattern. Some needs follow a shorter cyclical reward patterns than others.
Whereas the need for subsistence requires multiple meals a day, the needs for identity may
require following studies and developing a career, and hence involve long-term dynamics.
Especially needs that are old from an evolutionary standpoint, such as subsistence and
protection, may display very short-term dynamics, although long-term dynamics also
affect these needs, such as a fat diet jeopardising health (subsistence) in the long run. Also
Max-Neef adheres to an evolutionary perspective on needs when stating that fundamental
human needs are essential attributes related to human evolution (Max-Neef, 1992, p.
204). The needs that organisms try to fulfil are being considered to be co-evolved
along with the evolution of brain structures. Whereas reptiles are only ‘concerned’
about basic individual needs such as food, sex and perhaps safety, higher animals
clearly demonstrate higher social needs. Most mammals demonstrate a need for
affection and participation, which explains why most people prefer a dog or a cat to a
lizard as a pet. Primates and man also demonstrate self-reflective needs, such as
identity and the exploration of an environment. In the context of human decision
making the basic idea here is that ‘lower’ needs are associated with fylogenetic older
brain structures. The nine needs Max-Neef distinguishes can be condensed in basic
individual needs, social needs and self-reflective needs, which allows for a basic linking to
respectively the spinal system/brain stem, the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex.
This is an important issue in the context of understanding how behaviour
satisfies our various needs, and what decision strategies we are most likely to use in
satisfying those needs. Basically, we state that fylogenetic older needs (e.g.,
subsistence – food) are likely to follow both short-term and longer-term life cycles,
whereas newer needs (e.g., identity) involve processes that exclusively involve longer
time-spans. Because much behaviour satisfies different needs at the same time,
different time-cycles often play a role at the same time. Whilst the higher long-term
needs may play a role in deciding what behaviour to perform, the moment the
behaviour has been transformed to a habit only short term outcomes will be
experienced, and hence the short-cyclical ‘lower’ needs will dominate the
continuation or change of the habit. Often this is no problem for as long as the long-
term outcomes remain positive. For example, having the habit of eating plenty of fruit
can be considered to be a ‘good habit’. One may simply enjoy eating the fruit, whilst
not being consciously aware of the long-term health benefits each time a piece of fruit
is being consumed. The short-term enjoyment of eating fruit may be sufficient to
persist the habit. However, there are also situations where the short-term and longer-
term outcomes are conflicting. Most of us remember situations where we habitually
continue to eat candy or savoury snacks whilst knowing we will end up feeling not
too well. This is a typical example of how two different needs having different time-
scales may collide, often in favour of the short-cyclical need, which in this example is
the experience of a fine taste. This example also demonstrates that one may be aware
of the negative outcomes in the (near) future, but that the direct satisfaction of the
short cyclical need still may dominate the behaviour. Even if new information
concerning negative outcomes in the long run becomes available, it may be so that the
short cyclical-needs remain dominating the behaviour, thus persisting the ‘bad habit’.
Using this framework, we can define an addiction as a conflict between attitudinal or
‘cortical’ motives to stop behaviour, and the habit mechanism (‘brain stem-
cerebellum’ motives) favouring the behaviour. Importantly, formulating addiction as a
conflict between the outcome perceptions of separate brain structures holds that a
person can be considered to be addicted without performing the addictive behaviour.
Whereas cognitive efficiency thus constitutes a major advantage of habits, on
the other side of the medal we find the disadvantages of obsolete information.
Whereas many habits yield (near) optimal outcomes, a current habit may also yield
far from optimal outcomes because new, better behavioural opportunities may have
been introduced in the meantime, or new information on previously unknown
negative outcomes of the habitual behaviour has become available. People may be
aware of these new opportunities and new information at the attitudinal level, but this
information may not affect their habitual behaviour. Triandis (1977, 1980) for
example reviews literature on attitude behaviour relations, demonstrating that the
longer a behaviour has been repeated, the stronger the habit will be and the less it will
be correlated with and predicted by attitude (e.g., Aarts,
Verplanken, & Van
Knippenberg, 1998; Verplanken, Aarts, Van Knippenberg, & Moonen, 1998). It may
also be the case that the conflict between a habit and new information causes
cognitive dissonance, which can be resolved by trivialising or rejecting the
information. Trivialisation or rejecting dissonant information may be a lot easier than
actually changing one’s habit. For example, information on the negative
environmental impacts of car driving are often refuted by questioning the seriousness
of the problem, blaming the industry as a bigger pollutant and trivialising ones own
contribution to the problem (e.g., Tertoolen, 1994, Steg, 1996) It can be assumed that
the stronger the habit is, the more likely it is that people prefer to resolve a cognitive
dissonance by refuting dissonant information.
Consequently, whereas habits are frequently very efficient and necessary
strategies that help us performing routine behaviour, this automating of behaviour
may also cause people to behave in an inefficient or even detrimental manner. A well-
known example here is smoking. Despite the fact that most smokers are well aware of
the long-term health-risks associated with smoking, most smokers continue smoking.
Many of them tried to stop for a while or quit the habit, but still experience the
craving for a cigarette. People usually start smoking consciously to establish an image
of toughness, maturity and independence form authority (Ronis, Yates & Kirscht,
1989), or to comply with pressures from their friends (Leventhal & Cleary, 1980).
Hence it is usually social and identity needs that stimulate to start smoking. In the
beginning one may experience a negative effect on health in a physical unpleasant
experience of dizziness and coughing. However, this negative physical experience
changes rather quickly into a pleasant sensation as people get used to inhaling smoke
and experiencing the effect of nicotine (metabolic change). After a while people will
experience negative physical sensations when their nicotine level is low. Hence
besides social and identity needs, also a short-cyclical physical need is contributing to
the short-term need satisfaction smoking provides. This stimulates the emerging of a
very strong habit, for example, smokers often report that they find themselves
smoking a cigarette without remembering the decision to smoke or having picked up a
cigarette (Ikard, Green and Horn, 1996). Even when people become more aware of
the negative health effects on the longer run, their behaviour is mostly being governed
by their habit. From the earlier definition of addictions we can see here the conflict
emerging between ‘cortical’ motives to stop smoking, and ‘brain stem-cerebellum’
motives to continue smoking. This conflict may persist after quitting smoking, as
many ex cigarette smokers sometimes crave for a cigarette even long after quitting the
behaviour for health reasons. Also the cognitive dissonance of the conflict between
the smoking habit and the information on health hazards is often resolved by
trivialising dissonant information, and overweighting consonant information (the 98
year old smoker example).
Processes where stimuli are experienced more positively the more frequent
they are being experienced, such as smoking, are very common. The mere-exposure
effect, as identified by Zajonc (1968), may be responsible for a part of this effect.
Zajonc (1968) demonstrated that the mere exposure to a stimulus, e.g., a nonsense
word, people, abstract and representational visual images, and types of music,
increases people’s liking of these stimuli. The longer the exposure, and the more
homogeneous the exposure sequence, the more people become satiated, and thus the
lower the mere-exposure effect gets. The mere-exposure effect is the strongest when
the exposure duration of the stimulus is short, and when exposure sequences are
varied. The exposure effect has also been demonstrated in rats (Cross, Halcomb &
Matter, 1967), suggesting that this is a deep-rooted principle in behavioural
adaptation. Also foods with a distinctive taste are usually liked more after repeated
consumption (e.g., Zellner, 1991; Stevenson and Yeomans, 1995). Hence, in many
situations a habit may become stronger over time because the (already positive) short-
cyclical outcomes are becoming more positive.
Delayed negative outcomes do not affect the habitual behaviour for as long as
the direct outcomes are positive and the script governs the behaviour, even if information
on these negative outcomes is available in ones memory. Extreme examples are the use of
substances, like tobacco, alcohol and heroin
1
. This explains why the correlation between
attitudes and behaviour is usually low, especially when the behaviour has been performed
for a prolonged period of time (Triandis, 1977; 1980). Much consumptive behaviour is
embedded in relatively stable consumption patterns, which can be conceived as forms of
habitual behaviour. Consequently, behaviours like the buying of food, the use of
appliances (cars, showers, domestic appliances) and the disposal of rubbish are mostly
performed in a habitual manner. The precise content of a habit determines if it should be
considered to be a ‘bad habit’. The question is how people can be assisted in quitting ‘bad
habits’.
3: Breaking a habit
As discussed in the previous section, people usually persist in a habit because the
direct personal outcomes are satisfying. Reasons to quit a ‘bad habit’ usually relate to
1 Whereas the first use of these substances may be a less pleasant experience, the social
rewards may stimulate repetition of its use, allowing the development of a strong positive
physical reinforcement.
the negative consequences of the habit on the long run and/or on the social/physical
environment. Because a habit involves that new information is not taken into
consideration, it is often very hard to change habitual information using a persuasive
message. Moreover, when information promotes alternative behaviour one may not
recognise it as relevant for the own situation. For example, information on a new
biking road may not be noticed because one always goes by car. The most effective
way to change a habit is to make it impossible. For example, closing the shopping
centre of a town for car-traffic can break the habit of shopping by car, and changing
the menu of a canteen may break an unhealthy lunching habit. It is obvious that such
measurements cannot be used in a wide variety of settings, as they interfere with
people’s freedom of choice and may elicit strong resistance. A next effective strategy
involves changing the situation (stimulus) in a way that the script is not automatically
being activated. For example, people trying to overcome an addiction should avoid
the circumstances in which they performed the behaviour a lot (e.g., smoking in bars),
although it is often not possible to avoid all script triggering stimuli. A next strategy is
aimed at changing the direct experienced outcomes in case the habit is being
performed. A very nice example here is to quit the biting of fingernails by applying a
nasty tasting substance on the nails. Here one’s cognition decides to change the
outcomes of the habit, being well aware that the short-cyclical satisfaction will suffer
for a while. Other strategies like this are an anti-alcohol pill, which makes one very
sick after drinking even a bit of alcoholic beverage or operatively placing a special
balloon in one’s stomach to diminish one’s appetite. Whereas these actions may be
originated by one’s own cognition in order to change a habit, often another individual
or group wants to change your habit. For example, to stop people from driving too
fast in an urban area, traversal ripples are being made in the tarmac, making a too
high speed into an unpleasant bumpy and noisy experience. Not only is it possible to
make the ‘bad habit’ less rewarding, it is also possible to make the ‘good habit’ more
rewarding. To stimulate people to throw their waste not just on the street when
driving or biking, special catching nets are being placed on the road sides in parts of
the Netherlands, transferring the proper disposal of waste into a directly-rewarding
kind of game.
However, no matter how effective it is to change the short-term outcomes of
a ‘bad habit’, often it is impossible to realise this due to legal and/or financial barriers.
For example, it is physically impossible to make smoking impossible in a building,
and to make speeding impossible would require expensive changes in the
infrastructure, or the introduction of a very expensive and complex vehicle control
system. Therefore, often the outcomes of a ‘bad habit’ may be changed on a more
indirect level by setting rules and punishment for breaking the rules. Examples are
fines for smoking in a non-smoking area and speeding. Important is that the people
are aware of the rule, and preferably of the intensity of control (chance of being fined)
and size of the fines. Again, this information is processed at a more cognitive level,
and hence may not have a too strong effect on the habit because the direct outcomes
remain unchanged. Especially when the time between violation and fine is long, the
habit will hardly be changed, and people will experience the fine as unfair (e.g., as
often is the case in speeding tickets). Especially when the information on control and
the size of the fine is unclear, a cognitive dissonance effect may cause people to
underestimate the chances of being fined, thus persisting in their habit. Also when the
chances of being fined are low, and the fines are low, the chances are high that one
will persist the habit because the habit still yields satisfying outcomes.
Usually a lot of effort is being spent in informing people about the long-term
consequences of ‘bad habits’. Especially ‘bad habits’ concerning health and the
environment have been targeted with informational campaigns. The trivialising of
dissonant information becomes more difficult the more clearly and unquestionable the
information is. Whereas the uncertainty on the greenhouse effect may cause people to
refute information on the necessity to diminish their energy consumption, the clear-
cut relation between smoking and health problems is more difficult to refute.
Especially when the information is being delivered at the moment the habit is being
performed the effect may be strong. For example, providing very visible information
on the negative effects of smoking on packages of cigarettes has demonstrated a
noticeable effect on the quantity of cigarettes people smoke (Teeboom, 2002). In
earlier research we also demonstrated that prompting information at the time the habit
was being performed (taking the elevator in a university library, a behaviour which
we assume to be habitual for the visiting students) with a relevant personal belief
(taking the stairs is healthy) resulted in a strong behavioural change (Jager, Boers,
Eckringa, Westerhof, 1996).
Whereas in the above examples the information provided focuses at the
negative outcomes of the habit, informational strategies are also essential in
communicating the positive outcomes of alternative behaviour. Both the short-term
and long-term positive outcomes can be communicated in stimulating people to try
the alternative behaviour. For example, in communicating the advantages of biking
one could stress the enjoyment of engaging in an outdoor activity, the possibility of
expressing your personality with a certain type of bike, health benefits of regular
exercise and the environmental benefits of lowering your fossil fuel consumption. Of
course this information is only taken into consideration when people think about
alternative behaviour. Hence, making the existing habit impossible or changing its
direct outcomes is a prerequisite for information on alternative behaviour to be
effective. However, in stimulating that people abandon the script and start thinking
about alternative behaviour it is important that people experience direct negative
outcomes after performing the ‘bad habit’. Hence a positive informational campaign
should be accompanied with a change of the situation and short-term outcomes of the
existing habit. When a person is being confronted with the impossibility of
performing the habit, or with unsatisfactory outcomes of performing the habit, it is
likely that he/she will think about behavioural alternatives, and the information
provided in the informational campaign will affect ones decision in trying the
behaviour that is being advocated. When performing that behaviour yields direct
positive outcomes, chances are positive for a new habit to emerge. Here one should be
alert for the development of new ‘bad habits’. If there are indications of the
development of a new ‘bad habit’, one should take immediate measurements to
prevent its development and spreading.
Recapitulating, changing a habit will be most effective when (1) the existing
habit is being blocked by making the performance of the habit impossible, removing
situations/stimuli that activate the script behind the habit, and attaching short-term
negative outcomes or removing short-term positive outcomes from performing the
habit, (2) clear and direct information is made available on the negative (long-term)
outcomes of the habit, and on the positive outcomes of alternative behaviour(s),
preferably during or close to the decision-making process, and (3) the alternative
behaviour(s) provide(s) short-term positive outcomes, maximising the chances of a
new habit to emerge. Whereas a policy maker can change several outcomes, and the
provision of information can also be controlled to al pretty large extend, the short-
term social rewards of habits are very difficult to target with policy measures. For
example, driving a scooter or moped may contribute to a ‘cool’ image amongst
youngsters. The more such short-term social outcomes determine the habit, the more
difficult it gets to change the habit. Recent campaigns against smoking and drunk
driving were however targeting the social outcomes of the habits, and apparently this
generated quite a lot of discussion, which may reflect a norm-adaptation process. In
researching the conditions for changing a habit one must estimate the importance of
short-term social rewards, and preferably follow the autonomous process of the
change of these rewards. If possible, it may be very effective to align policy measures
with an emerging trend or fashion, thus utilising autonomous processes for changing
bad habits. For example, the fitness trend offers possibilities to promote biking as a
means for commuting. At a more fundamental level research could focus on
identifying the typical short-term and long term outcome systems attached to habits,
identify how these outcomes are related to different needs and study how this affects
the process of changing habits.
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... The function of habits is essentially to regulate and enable various forms of behavior. They are largely subconscious and automatic, thus alleviating the strain on activities that require deeper cognitive processing (Aarts & Dijksterhuis, 2000;Jager, 2003). ...
... Additionally, habits are tied to common, everyday contexts and situations that actively trigger the habit in question (Wood, Tam & Witt, 2005), and changing these circumstances in order to allow for old habits to be broken could be challenging. Deliberately changing or removing the context in which the habitual cues are normally triggered is considered to be one of the prime strategies for changing habits (Jager, 2003;Verplanken & Wood, 2006), and there is empirical research that supports this notion. In two separate studies, a free one-month bus ticket was given to a selection of drivers that mostly travelled by car (Fujii & Kitamura, 2003;Thøgersen & Møller, 2008). ...
... Reviewing the literature on environmental communication through the years, it is clear that previous attempts to promote pro-environmental action have been affected in various degrees by political and religious influence (Gifford & Chen, 2017;Greeley, 1993;Jones & Dunlap, 1992;Klöckner, 2015, p.121;McCright et al., 2014), the spread of environmental misinformation and conspiracy theories (Boucher, 2016;Hooper et al., 2011;Mohammed, 2019;Smith & Graham, 2019), psychological barriers (Gifford, 2011;Gifford & Chen, 2017;, contextual and physical limitations (Cialdini et al., 1991;Friestad & Wright, 1994;Jager, 2003;Klöckner, 2015, p.83;Ölander & Thøgersen, 1995;Smith et al., 2012;Thøgersen, 2010;Verplanken & Wood, 2006), one-way communication interventions (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p.157), a lack of direct exposure to environmental issues (e.g., Klöckner, 2015, p.48;Littlejohn & Foss, 2011), repetitive and often vague scientific statistics and data (Houghton, 2015, p.14;Vatne, 2013, p.43) as well as a feeling of psychological distance from what can only be described as an "invisible" entity that slowly sneaks up on us Myers et al., 2013;Sheppard, 2012, p.3). It is very difficult or perhaps even impossible to design and implement a singular communications-based intervention capable of circumventing all these barriers against pro-environmental behavior at once. ...
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This thesis serves as a contribution towards the general understanding of how, when, and why environmental and sustainability-oriented games affect their players, and how they can be utilized as tools for increasing environmental literacy. It consists of three qualitative empirical research papers, where the overarching purpose has been to gain an understanding of how games can be used in strengthening the environmental literacy of their players. The results overall show that games can be effective tools for environmental education, especially regarding their innate ability to simplify and visualize complex systems and environmental issues that otherwise appear distant or invisible.
... Habits are behaviors requiring the least amount of cognitive effort (Jager, 2003). The greater the dominance of habits over cognitive efforts, the less effective the latter (Bamberg & Schmidt, 2003;Aarts & Dijksterhuis, 2000). ...
... A "loop" and an automatism emerge through repetition: reasoned weighing occurs only when the loop is broken (Jager et al., 1992). Habits are routine behaviors that are usually performed without much thought (Jager, 2003). Habits are less susceptible to change than reasoned behavior as they become more automated (Verplanken, Aarts, Van Knippenberg, & Moonen, 1998). ...
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... A different explanation has to do with the widely acknowledged challenge of invoking behavioral change and the literature on attitudinal resistance. Bringing about behavioral change by any number of means is difficult (such as breaking a bad habit; Duhigg, 2012;Jager, 2003;Kelly & Barker, 2016). Berkman (2018) argues that behavioral changes are difficult to impose because they require both motivational and cognitive change. ...
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... As noted earlier, CdA provides a full suite of interventions, including nutritional and exercise advice. Behaviors such as eating and exercise are notoriously difficult to influence (Jager, 2003). ...
... En ese sentido, Webb y colaboradoras (2009) mencionan que muchos de los esfuerzos para modificar el comportamiento se caracterizan por ser un fracaso total, o por un éxito a corto plazo seguido de una recaída. Quinn y colaboradores (2010) subrayan que los hábitos, que son los que determinan el comportamiento de las personas en situaciones relativamente estables (Jager, 2003), no se pueden cambiar o reinterpretar fácilmente en la memoria porque estos fueron aprendidos gradualmente a partir de asociaciones entre el contexto y la persona, por lo que una vez formado el hábito, tan solo con la percepción del contexto se activa la respuesta asociada en la memoria. Así, para que haya un control intencional de la conducta se deben identificar las oportunidades en las que se puede actuar, intensificar los esfuerzos de manera flexible y regular la conducta de acuerdo con el objetivo (Webb et al., 2009). ...
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... Actually the learning process was establishing series of good habits. In this research, habit meant that the behavior has manifested with less cognition aspect (Jager, 2003). This less cognition aspect signified that one would behave automatically (rapidly, even without prolonged thinking process). ...
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To illustrate the differing thoughts and emotion's involved in guiding habitual and nonhabitual behavior, 2,. diary studies were conducted in which participants provided hourly reports of their ongoing experiences. When participants were engaged in habitual behavior, defined as behavior that had been performed almost daily in stable contexts, they were likely to think about issues unrelated to their behavior, presumably because they did not have to consciously guide their actions. When engaged in nonhabitual behavior,or actions performed less often or :in shifting contexts; participants' thoughts tended to correspond to their behavior, suggesting that thought was necessary to guide action. Furthermore, the self-regulatory, benefits of habits were apparent in the lesser feelings of stress associated with habitual,. than nonhabitual behavior.
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Humans and animals make inferences about the world under limited time and knowledge. In contrast, many models of rational inference treat the mind as a Laplacean Demon, equipped with unlimited time, knowledge, and computational might. Following Herbert Simon's notion of satisficing, this chapter proposes a family of algorithms based on a simple psychological mechanism: one-reason decision making. These fast-and-frugal algorithms violate fundamental tenets of classical rationality: It neither looks up nor integrates all information. By computer simulation, a competition was held between the satisficing "take-the-best" algorithm and various "rational" inference procedures (e.g., multiple regression). The take-the-best algorithm matched or outperformed all competitors in inferential speed and accuracy. This result is an existence proof that cognitive mechanisms capable of successful performance in the real world do not need to satisfy the classical norms of rational inference.
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A field experiment investigated the prediction and change in repeated behaviour in the domain of travel mode choices. Car use during seven days was predicted from habit strength (measured by self-reported frequency of past behaviour, as well as by a more covert measure based on personal scripts incorporating the behaviour), and antecedents of behaviour as conceptualized in the theory of planned behaviour (attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and behavioural intention). Both habit measures predicted behaviour in addition to intention and perceived control. Significant habit x intention interactions indicated that intentions were only significantly related to behaviour when habit was weak, whereas no intention-behaviour relation existed when habit was strong. During the seven-day registration of behaviour, half of the respondents were asked to think about the circumstances under which the behaviour was executed. Compared to control participants, the behaviour of experimental participants was more strongly related to their previously expressed intentions. However, the habit-behaviour relation was unaffected. The results demonstrate that, although external incentives may increase the enactment of intentions, habits set boundary conditions for the applicability of the theory of planned behaviour.
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The two schools of economic thought which have prevailed in the Latin American setting, neo-liberal monetarism and the more interventionist state-centered developmentalism promoted by the Economic Commission for Latin America, have not been able to satisfy the legitimate needs of the Latin American masses. A new perspective is called for which aims at an adequate satisfaction of human needs. Furthermore, if future development cannot be sustained through the expansion of exports or through substantial injection of foreign capital, an alternative development must generate a capacity for greater self-reliance. We are proposing an orientation which would enable us to create conditions for a new praxis based on Human Scale Development. Such development is focused and based on the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, on the generation of growing levels of self-reliance, and on the construction of organic articulations of people with nature and technology, of global processes with local activity, of the personal with the social, of planning with autonomy, and of civil society with the state. -from Author
Chapter
In the domain of personality psychology, the trait concept has carried the burden of dispositional explanation. A multitude of personality traits has been identified and new trait dimensions continue to join the growing list. In a similar fashion, the concept of attitude has been the focus of attention in the explanations of human behavior offered by social psychologists. Numerous attitudes have been assessed over the years and, as new social issues emerge, additional attitudinal domains are explored. The chapter provides little evidence to support the postulated existence of stable, underlying attitudes within the individual, which influence both verbal expressions and actions. It examines the relation between two or more actions that were assumed to reflect the same underlying disposition. The aggregation of responses across time, contexts, targets, or actions or across a combination of these elements permits the inferences of dispositions at varying levels of generality.
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The Nobel Prize-winning scientist offers a precise, full, and accessible exposition of his landmark work in experimental psychology. Pavlov details the technical means by which he established experiments and controls, the experiments, observations on formation of conditioned reflexes, external and internal reflex inhibitions, the function of cerebral hemispheres and cortex, and more. 18 figures.