The Good, Bad, and Indifferent: Do Habits Have Trait-Like Qualities?
Kathryn Rehberg, Master’s in Psychology: Experimental Psychology Concentration
(Sponsoring faculty member: Dr. Niels Christensen)
The automatic nature of habits means that these behaviors have a surprising – and often hidden - influence over a wide range of daily actions when compared to the influence of conscious goals (Bargh, 1994, 1996). Although goals influence behaviors when habits are weak, goals become less influential as the strength of the habit increases (Neal et al., 2011; Neal et al., 2013). Despite habits’ importance, basic questions about the construct remain. Previous research on habits has predominately examined how to break bad habits, or promote positive habits; however, research has yet to assess the extent to  which habits have trait-like qualities (Neal et al., 2013). The primary goal of the current research is more fundamental: To what degree do individuals vary in their strength of habits across positive and negative habits? That is, do habits have trait-like qualities? If so, are men and women equally likely to express habits in a trait-like fashion. To answer these questions, 350 Radford University undergraduates will report habit strength on ten different positive and negative habits. If participants’ habit strength load on a single factor, it will suggest that some people are more prone to habitual behavior than others. Alternatively, it could be that habit strength loads on two or more factors. That result would suggest that people are prone to particular types of habits or that specific habits are idiosyncratic to each person.
2015-2016 Kemp Award Recipients' Research
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