Defining Habit in Psychology

  • Asaf Mazar
  • Wendy Wood


We review definitions of habit and evaluate how well current measures capture these definitions. Habits are context–behaviour associations in memory that develop as people repeatedly experience rewards for a given action in a given context. Habitual behaviour is cued directly by context and does not require supporting goals and conscious intentions. As we explain, goals are important to initiate behaviour repetition and to inhibit unwanted habit performance, and in addition can be inferred from habits. To date, research has relied on self-report methods to measure habit. These measures, by themselves, may fall short of adequately testing key features of habit, such as context dependence, or dissociating habitual and non-habitual influences on behaviour. By augmenting self-reports with implicit, behavioural, and ecological momentary assessment methods, researchers can gain a more complete understanding of habits and their role in shaping behaviour.


Habit Automatic processes Implicit Habit definition Habit measurement 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asaf Mazar
    • 1
  • Wendy Wood
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Marshall School of BusinessUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Marketing, INSEADFranceSingapore

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