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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02642

On How Definitions of Habits Can Complicate Habit Research

  • 1Ghent University, Belgium

The core message of this paper is that many of the challenges of habit research can be traced back to the presence of causal elements within the definition of habits. For instance, the idea that habits are stimulus-driven implies that habitual behavior is not causally mediated by goal-representations. The presence of these causal elements in the definition of habits leads to difficulties in establishing empirically whether behavior is habitual. Some of these elements can also impoverish theoretical thinking about the mechanisms underlying habitual behavior. I argue that habit research would benefit from eliminating any reference to specific S-R association formation theories from the definition of habits. Which causal elements are retained in the definition of habits depends on the goals of researchers. However, regardless of the definition that is selected, it is good to be aware of the implications of the definition of habits for empirical and theoretical research on habits.

Keywords: habits, automaticity, Conceptual analysis, stimulus-driven behavior, goal-directed behavior

Received: 14 Feb 2019; Accepted: 08 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 De Houwer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Jan De Houwer, Ghent University, Ghent, 9000, Belgium, jan.dehouwer@ugent.be