Some habits are more work than others: Deliberate self-regulation strategy use increases with behavioral complexity, even for established habits

Blair Saunders (Lead / Corresponding author), Kimberly R. More

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: We tested the hypothesis that complex behaviors are commonly supported by self-regulation strategies, even when those behaviors are supported by strong instigation habits. Background: Goal-directed and habit-mediated processes arise from separable systems that have been suggested to seldomly interact. Results: Self-regulation strategy use was lower for habitually instigated simple behaviors compared to nonhabitually instigated simple behaviors. However, participants' use of self-regulation strategies increased with the increasing complexity of behaviors, even when complex behaviors were habitually instigated. The difference in the extent of strategy use between habitually and nonhabitually instigated actions was absent when behavioral complexity was particularly high. Conclusion: These results point to a qualitative distinction—while simple behaviors may progress in a relatively automatic and unthinking manner, complex behaviors receive frequent support from self-regulation strategies, even if they are instigated habitually.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality
Early online date7 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • behavior change
  • goals
  • habit
  • health
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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