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Characterizing human habits in the lab


Nebe, Stephan; Kretzschmar, André; Brandt, Maike C; Tobler, Philippe N (2024). Characterizing human habits in the lab. Collabra: Psychology, 10(1):92949.

Abstract

Habits pose a fundamental puzzle for those aiming to understand human behavior. They pervade our everyday lives and dominate some forms of psychopathology but are extremely hard to elicit in the lab. In this Registered Report, we developed novel experimental paradigms grounded in computational models, which suggest that habit strength should be proportional to the frequency of behavior and, in contrast to previous research, independent of value. Specifically, we manipulated how often participants performed responses in two tasks varying action repetition without, or separately from, variations in value. Moreover, we asked how this frequency-based habitization related to value-based operationalizations of habit and self-reported propensities for habitual behavior in real life. We find that choice frequency during training increases habit strength at test and that this form of habit shows little relation to value-based operationalizations of habit. Our findings empirically ground a novel perspective on the constituents of habits and suggest that habits may arise in the absence of external reinforcement. We further find no evidence for an overlap between different experimental approaches to measuring habits and no associations with self-reported real-life habits. Thus, our findings call for a rigorous reassessment of our understanding and measurement of human habitual behavior in the lab.

Abstract

Habits pose a fundamental puzzle for those aiming to understand human behavior. They pervade our everyday lives and dominate some forms of psychopathology but are extremely hard to elicit in the lab. In this Registered Report, we developed novel experimental paradigms grounded in computational models, which suggest that habit strength should be proportional to the frequency of behavior and, in contrast to previous research, independent of value. Specifically, we manipulated how often participants performed responses in two tasks varying action repetition without, or separately from, variations in value. Moreover, we asked how this frequency-based habitization related to value-based operationalizations of habit and self-reported propensities for habitual behavior in real life. We find that choice frequency during training increases habit strength at test and that this form of habit shows little relation to value-based operationalizations of habit. Our findings empirically ground a novel perspective on the constituents of habits and suggest that habits may arise in the absence of external reinforcement. We further find no evidence for an overlap between different experimental approaches to measuring habits and no associations with self-reported real-life habits. Thus, our findings call for a rigorous reassessment of our understanding and measurement of human habitual behavior in the lab.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:habit, value-based decision making, goal-directed control, computational modeling, training
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:28 February 2024
Deposited On:25 Mar 2024 23:15
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 03:42
Publisher:University of California Press
ISSN:2474-7394
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1525/collabra.92949
PubMed ID:38463460
Project Information:
  • : FunderSwiss National Science Foundation
  • : Grant ID100014_165884
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderSwiss National Science Foundation
  • : Grant IDCRSII5_177277
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderSwiss National Science Foundation
  • : Grant ID10001C_207613
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderUniversity of Zurich
  • : Grant IDFK-19-020
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)