Changing circumstances, disrupting habits

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Jun;88(6):918-933. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.6.918.


The present research investigated the mechanisms guiding habitual behavior, specifically, the stimulus cues that trigger habit performance. When usual contexts for performance change, habits cannot be cued by recurring stimuli, and performance should be disrupted. Thus, the exercising, newspaper reading, and TV watching habits of students transferring to a new university were found to survive the transfer only when aspects of the performance context did not change (e.g., participants continued to read the paper with others). In some cases, the disruption in habits also placed behavior under intentional control so that participants acted on their current intentions. Changes in circumstances also affected the favorability of intentions, but changes in intentions alone could not explain the disruption of habits. Furthermore, regardless of whether contexts changed, nonhabitual behavior was guided by intentions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Female
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires