How are Habits Formed? How Can They be Changed?

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Habits
How are habits formed? How can they be changed?

11/9/2013
Psychology 103

Almost everyone (if not all people) have a habit; it could be a good habit or a bad one. One thing most do not know is how a habit is formed? Can they be changed? A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviors that is acquired through frequent repetition, and tends to occur subconsciously. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly seeking ways to conserve energy. It looks for a cue that becomes the trigger for a habitual response. We are then rewarded with a blast of the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning. Dopamine produces both excitatory and inhibitory effects and is involved in several functions, including learning, attention, movement, and reinforcement. Dopamine is also important to our ability to feel pleasure (Wood, Wood, Boyd. 2011). Habitual Behavior often goes unnoticed in a person exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks.
The process is a three-step physiological loop:
A trigger event or cue occurs.
There’s an automatic response (physical, mental or emotional).
A reward helps the brain decide that this loop is worth remembering for the future.
Over time, the habit loop becomes increasingly automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation emerges. This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings form so gradually that we’re not even aware they exist. We’re often blind to their influence. In the American Journal of Psychology (1903) it is defined in this way: “A habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.” Features of an automatic behavior are all or



References: WORKS CITED March 05, 2012.11:43AM.www.npr.org.web Wood, Wood, Boyd, (2011). Biology and Behavior. The world of Psychology, 43. Andrews, B.R. “Habit” American Journal of Psychology. Vol.14.No.2. (1980) pp 121-149 Web. Bargh JA (1994) Lally P. Cornelia H.M., Jaarsreld V., Potts H.W.W. & Wardle J. (2010) How are Habits Formed. European Journal of Social Psychology. October 2010. 40 (6), pg 998-1009.

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