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Annu Rev Psychol. 2016;67:289-314. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033417. Epub 2015 Sep 10.

Psychology of Habit.

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Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-1061; email: ,


As the proverbial creatures of habit, people tend to repeat the same behaviors in recurring contexts. This review characterizes habits in terms of their cognitive, motivational, and neurobiological properties. In so doing, we identify three ways that habits interface with deliberate goal pursuit: First, habits form as people pursue goals by repeating the same responses in a given context. Second, as outlined in computational models, habits and deliberate goal pursuit guide actions synergistically, although habits are the efficient, default mode of response. Third, people tend to infer from the frequency of habit performance that the behavior must have been intended. We conclude by applying insights from habit research to understand stress and addiction as well as the design of effective interventions to change health and consumer behaviors.


automaticity; behavior change; dual-process models; goals; model-free learning

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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