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The goal dependent automaticity of drinking habits

By Paschal Sheeran, Henk Aarts, Ruud Custers, Amanda Rivis, Richard Cooke and Thomas L. Webb

Abstract

In recent treatments of habitual social behaviour, habits are conceptualised as a form of goal-directed automatic behaviour that are mentally represented as goal-action links. Three experiments tested this conceptualisation in the context of students’ drinking (alcohol consumption) habits. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions where either a goal related to drinking behaviour (socialising) was activated, or an unrelated goal was activated. In addition, participants’ drinking habits were measured. The dependent variable in Experiments 1 and 2 was readiness to drink, operationalised by speed of responding to the action concept “drinking” in a verb verification task. Experiment 3 used uptake of a voucher to measure drinking behaviour. Findings supported the view that when habits are established, simply activating a goal related to the focal behaviour automatically elicits that behaviour. These findings are consistent with a goal-dependent conception of habit. Possibilities for interventions designed to attenuate undesirable habitual behaviours are considered

Year: 2005
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:704

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