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Br J Soc Psychol. 2005 Mar;44(Pt 1):47-63.

The goal-dependent automaticity of drinking habits.

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Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


In recent treatments of habitual social behaviour, habits are conceptualized as a form of goal-directed automatic behaviour that are mentally represented as goal-action links. Three experiments tested this conceptualization in the context of students' drinking (alcohol consumption)habits. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions where either a goal related to drinking behaviour (socializing) was activated, or an unrelated goal was activated. In addition, participants' drinking habits were measured. The dependent variable in Experiments 1 and 2 was readiness to drink, operationalized by speed of responding to the action concept 'drinking' in a verb verification task. Experiment 3 used the uptake of a voucher to measure drinking behaviour. Findings supported the view that when habits are established, simply activating a goal related to the focal behaviour automatically elicits that behaviour. These findings are consistent with a goal-dependent conception of habit. Possibilities for interventions designed to attenuate undesirable habitual behaviours are considered.

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