Book review: “The power of habit” by Charles Duhigg
Communication occurs in an organized fashion based upon a theory called constructivism (Burleson & Rack, 2008, as cited in Wood, 2013). This key belief of this theory is that we organize and interpret our experiences by applying a type of cognitive structure schemata. People use four types of schemata: prototype, personal construct, stereotype, and scripts. These are used to classify our peers and situations. Such constructs can also be applied to our intrapersonal communication in the form of habits. For many, a morning cup of coffee or a late afternoon candy bar is just another part of their day; however, some people recognize that they have habits that may not be all that good for them. The questions remain: What do you do about them? How do they even work? If you turn on the TV or go online, countless hucksters are trying to sell a quick fix. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t easy, but, according to New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, it’s not impossible. In his latest book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg (2012) explores how the human brain is wired for habit, how habit works, and how habit can be created on a personal and social level. Literature Review
The Power of Habit has been extensively reviewed. A Google search long comes up with over a million hits, although it’s safe to say that not all are book reviews. For the literature review, I focused on more prominent publications. Much of the criticism of Duhigg has been an oversimplification of the complex process of habit development (Maugh, 2012; Wilson, 2012; Allison, 2012; Rodriguez, 2012). Others have noted a naivety in his work (Rosenwald, 2012; Allison, 2012). Others felt that, despite being entertaining, Duhigg’s thesis and information felt like a rehashing of previous material (Lax, 2012). The vast reach of the research and anecdotes for habit creation and processes caused some critics to feel that the lessons in the book are not easily applicable. Wilson (2012) said, “Unfortunately, it’s not always clear from Duhigg’s book how we should boil down these examples into a prescription for change, because he combines markedly different behaviors, at the individual and societal levels, into the rubric of habits.”
Most reviewers cited Duhigg’s storytelling abilities as the book’s strength (Allison, 2012; Lax, 2012; Maugh, 2012; Rodriguez, 2012; Sansom, 2012; Wilson, 2012). Sansom (2012) believed that Duhigg had created a simple and easily accessible model that could be followed given the right amount of motivation and willpower on the reader’s part. Allison (2012) felt that Duhigg created “a compelling case about a pervasive but little-known aspect of how we operate as humans, businesses and societies.” Analysis
The key thesis put forth by Duhigg (2012) is that the brain creates habits by chunking information together and relying upon that information so that it can save effort in performing tasks. He said, “Without habits, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life” (p. 20-21). Chunking and habit formation parallels with lessons taught in Fundamentals of Interpersonal Communication regarding schemata, which are the ways we organize and interpret life experiences (Wood, 2013).
According to Duhigg (2012), “when a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making” (p. 20). Habits run automatically through the habit loop, which is comprised of the cue, the routine, and the reward (Duhigg, 2012). The habit loop is so strong that people will often do things that they don’t enjoy, listen to music they hate, and ingest horrible foods and substances despite their best judgment. To change things, a person must fight the habit. Duhigg (2012) offers a way to do this through habit reversal therapy, which involves...
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