A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface

Psychol Rev. 2007 Oct;114(4):843-63. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.114.4.843.


The present model outlines the mechanisms underlying habitual control of responding and the ways in which habits interface with goals. Habits emerge from the gradual learning of associations between responses and the features of performance contexts that have historically covaried with them (e.g., physical settings, preceding actions). Once a habit is formed, perception of contexts triggers the associated response without a mediating goal. Nonetheless, habits interface with goals. Constraining this interface, habit associations accrue slowly and do not shift appreciably with current goal states or infrequent counterhabitual responses. Given these constraints, goals can (a) direct habits by motivating repetition that leads to habit formation and by promoting exposure to cues that trigger habits, (b) be inferred from habits, and (c) interact with habits in ways that preserve the learned habit associations. Finally, the authors outline the implications of the model for habit change, especially for the self-regulation of habit cuing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Automatism
  • Cues
  • Goals*
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Social Control, Informal