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A matter of habit: Recognizing the multiple roles of habit in health behaviour
journal contributionposted on 2020-01-29, 00:00 authored by B Gardner, Amanda RebarAmanda Rebar, P Lally
Much research has explored the influence of habit on a multitude of health behaviours, including hand hygiene, medication adherence, dietary consumption, physical activity, and sun protection (for a review, see Gardner, 2015). Such studies have implicitly addressed similar underlying research questions, which can broadly be summarized as: ‘To what extent could Behaviour X be determined by habit?’ If a behaviour is shown to be, or have the potential to be, habitually enacted, this will have important implications for behaviour modification. Interventions that support adoption of that behaviour might fruitfully promote context-consistent performance so that cue–response associations may develop (Lally, Van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010), while interventions that aim to discontinue habitual behaviour might focus on dismantling such associations or blocking their enactment (Lally & Gardner, 2013). In this editorial, however, we argue that a more comprehensive understanding of habitual action requires moving beyond asking only to what extent a behaviour may be habitual, and towards exploring which aspects of a behaviour could be regulated by habit.