In modern psychology, habits are learned associations between responses and features of performance contexts (e.g., locations, other people, preceding actions). Once habits have formed, perception of the context cue directly activates the associated response in memory (see Wood and Neal, 2007, 2009; Neal, Wood, and Quinn, 2006).
Habit performance is cued relatively directly by contexts without depending on a goal (Ji Song & Wood, 2007; Ouellette & Wood, 1998). With habits, what you intend is not necessarily what you do. But habits typically are consistent with goals, because people are most likely to repeat desired actions. Some habits, though, counter what people want to do (e.g., bad habits, action slips).
Habits are not readily changed by changing minds (Verplanken & Wood, 2006). Instead, habits can be broken by controlling the cues that trigger performance. Cues change as part of everyday life events (Wood, Tam, & Witt, 2005). People also might exert effortful control to inhibit the unwanted response once it is activated by cued (Quinn, Pascoe, Wood, Neal, 2010).
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Aldrich, J., Montgomery, J., & Wood, w. (2011). Turnout as a habit. Political Behavior. [request paper]
Quinn, J. M., Pascoe, A. T., Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2010). Can't control yourself? Monitor those bad habits. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 499-511. [request paper]
Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2009). The habitual consumer. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19, 579-592 . [request paper]
Rothman, A. J., Sheeran, P., & Wood, W. (2009). Reflective and automatic processes in the initiation and maintenance of food choices. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 28 (Suppl), 4-17. [request paper]
Neal, D. T., & Wood, W. (2009). Automaticity in situ and in the lab: The nature of habit in daily life. In E. Morsella, J. A. Bargh, P. Gollwitzer (Eds.), Oxford handbook of human action (pp. 442-457): Mechanisms of human action. New York: Oxford.
Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2007). A new look at habits and the interface between habits and goals. Psychological Review, 114, 843–863. [request paper]
Ji Song, M., & Wood, W. (2007). Habitual purchase and consumption: Not always what you intend. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 17, 261–276. [request paper]
Verplanken, B., & Wood, W. (2006). Changing and breaking consumer habits. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 25, 90-103. [request paper]
Neal, D. T., Wood, W., & Quinn, J. M. (2006). Habits: A repeat performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 198-202. [request paper]
Wood, W., Tam, L., & Guerrero Witt, M. (2005). Changing circumstances, disrupting habits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 918-933. [request paper]
Wood, W., Quinn, J. M., & Kashy, D. (2002). Habits in everyday life: Thought, emotion, and action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1281-1297. [request paper]
Ouellette, J., & Wood, W. (1998). Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple processes by which past behavior predicts future behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 54-74. [request paper]