Habits (or wonts) are routines of behavior that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously. In the American Journal of Psychology it is defined in this way: "A habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience." Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habituation is an extremely simple form of learning, in which an organism, after a period of exposure to a stimulus, stops responding to that stimulus in varied manners. Habits are sometimes compulsory. The process by which new behaviours become automatic is habit formation. Examples of habit formation are the following: If you instinctively reach for a cigarette the moment you wake up in the morning, you have a habit. Also, if you lace up your running shoes and hit the streets as soon as you get home, you've acquired a habit. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioural patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways. But the good news is that it is possible to form new habits through repetition.
As behaviors are repeated in a consistent context, there is an incremental increase in the link between the context and the action. This increases the automaticity of the behavior in that context. Features of an automatic behavior are all or some of: efficiency, lack of awareness, unintentionality, uncontrollability.
Habit formation is modelled as an increase in automaticity with number of repetitions up to an asymptote.
In fact, the habit formation is a slow process. Lally et al. (2010) found the average time for participants to reach the asymptote of automaticity was 66 days with a range of 18-254 days. This is because only the initial repetition can cause a large increase in automaticity. After that, each new repetition will generate less amount of automaticity. This relationship continues until the behaviour reach its limit of automaticity.
The habit-goal interface is constrained by the particular manner in which habits are learned and represented in memory. Specifically, the associative learning underlying habits is characterized by the slow, incremental accrual of information over time in procedural memory. Habits can either benefit or hurt the goals a person sets for themselves.
Goals guide habits most fundamentally by providing the initial outcome-oriented impetus for response repetition. In this sense, habits often are a vestige of past goal pursuit. Although, when a habit forces one action, but a conscious goal pushes for another action, an op-positional context occurs. When the habit prevails over the conscious goal a capture error has taken place.
Habits and nervousness
There are a number of habits possessed by individuals that can be classified as nervous habits. These include the acts of nail-biting, stammering, sniffling, and banging the head. They are known as symptoms of an emotional state and are generally based upon conditions of anxiety, insecurity, inferiority and tension. These habits are often formed at a young age and may be because of a need for attention. When trying to overcome a nervous habit it is important to resolve the cause of the nervous feeling rather than the symptom which is the habit it's self.
A bad habit is an undesirable behavior pattern. Common examples include: procrastination, fidgeting, overspending, nail-biting. The sooner one recognizes these bad habits, the easier it is to fix them.
Will and intention
A key factor in distinguishing a bad habit from an addiction or mental disease is the element of willpower. If a person still seems to have control over the behavior then it is just a habit. Good intentions are able to override the negative effect of bad habits but their effect seems to be independent and additive-the bad habits remain but are subdued rather than cancelled.
Eliminating bad habits
There are many techniques for removing bad habits once they have become established. One example is withdrawal of reinforcers-identifying and removing the factors which trigger the habit and encourage its persistence. The basal ganglia appears to remember the context that triggers a habit, meaning they can be revived if triggers reappear. Furthermore, it's better if you recognize your bad habits and eliminate them as soon as possible. As you get older, it becomes more difficult to remove them because the many repetitions have helped with the building of the habit, and each repetition has unfortunately left its mark.
Habit modification approaches
Behaviors with habitual elements
|Look up Habit (psychology) in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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