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Health Psychol. 2010 Jul;29(4):374-83. doi: 10.1037/a0019596.

The automatic component of habit in health behavior: habit as cue-contingent automaticity.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Essex, CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom. sorbell@essex.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Habit might be usefully characterized as a form of automaticity that involves the association of a cue and a response. Three studies examined habitual automaticity in regard to different aspects of the cue-response relationship characteristic of unhealthy and healthy habits.

DESIGN, MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES, AND RESULTS:

In each study, habitual automaticity was assessed by the Self-Report Habit Index (SRHI). In Study 1 SRHI scores correlated with attentional bias to smoking cues in a Stroop task. Study 2 examined the ability of a habit cue to elicit an unwanted habit response. In a prospective field study, habitual automaticity in relation to smoking when drinking alcohol in a licensed public house (pub) predicted the likelihood of cigarette-related action slips 2 months later after smoking in pubs had become illegal. In Study 3 experimental group participants formed an implementation intention to floss in response to a specified situational cue. Habitual automaticity of dental flossing was rapidly enhanced compared to controls.

CONCLUSION:

The studies provided three different demonstrations of the importance of cues in the automatic operation of habits. Habitual automaticity assessed by the SRHI captured aspects of a habit that go beyond mere frequency or consistency of the behavior.

PMID:
20658824
DOI:
10.1037/a0019596
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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