Behavioral and Social-Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits

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Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits PSY/250

Behavioral and Social/Cognitive Approaches to Forming Habits

Habit is defined as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (, n.d.). Most people have some sort of habit that they have acquired or learned throughout their life. Some are as non-noticeable and as simple as looking both ways before crossing a street or roadway. We are taught this at an early age for safety purposes, but to us, it is just a normal “it makes sense” act that we practice probably every day. Some individuals learn habits from a young age; other habits can form once an individual gets older and makes their own decisions.

Forming a habit can come from many role models or witnessed behavior. For example, if an infant cries or upset, usually they are comforted by food or soothing from the mother. At this point, the infant recognizes that a particular act receives a particular reward. This is an example of behavioral approach to a habit. If the infant cries, it gets rewarded with milk and soothing. Since the child only knows how to communicate by crying, this is how the child lets the parent know that they are in need of something, in some cases, just in need of attention. Another approach is the observational learning in which people learn to do something without actually performing it (Krapp, 2005). It can also be termed as social/cognitive approach. An example of this would be a child witnessing a sport on television. They see the actions play out with the team, and go out and “reenact” what they saw even though they have never played the game. The child does not necessarily know the rules of the game, but the basic tools and concept of the game.

Bandura claims that people are more apt to copy behavior that leads to a positive outcome (Krapp, 2005). However, some individuals have habits that can have a negative and possibly deadly...
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