Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Habitual instigation and habitual execution

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Habitual instigation and habitual execution:
What role do habitual instigation and habitual execution play in behaviour?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Everyday life is full of behaviour. Day in day out people go about their business and universally exhibit all sorts of behaviours, from the slightest action to grand gestures. However, as life progresses habits form through this repetition and can have a drastic impact, both in through habitual instigation and habitual execution. This chapter unpacks these concepts and explores their tangible and theoretical impact on behaviour, including how this habitual behaviour applies to readers like yourself.

Focus questions:

  • What is the difference between habitual instigation and habitual execution?
  • How are habitual processes formed?
  • What is a Self-Report Habit index?
  • How may habitual instigation and execution relate to you?
  • How are our behaviours influenced by habit?

Habitual instigation vs habitual execution[edit | edit source]

Before we can delve into how habitual processes relate to behaviour in tangible depth, it is imperative to first understand the concept and to make clear the difference between habitual instigation and habitual execution. A habit of-course referring to the process where situational prompts trigger automatic behaviours (once formed through learned behaviour associations) (Phillips & Gardner, 2016)[grammar?]. Habitual processes prompt this behaviour with minimal cognitive input and this is why it is regarded as invaluable, allowing cognitive resources freedom for ulterior[say what?] use. These habitual processes can be broken down into two identifiable forms, namely habitual instigation and habitual execution (Hagger, 2019, Phillips, 2019).

Habitual instigation[edit | edit source]

  • Habitual instigation refers to triggering the initial selection and subsequent initiation of an action (Gardner, Phillips & Judah, 2016). This means that habit selects and activates a behavioural process (Phillips & Gardner, 2016) but does not refer to habitual elements of the process itself.
  • An example of this would be: "Deciding to exercise is something i do without thinking/automatically" (Phillips & Gardner, 2016)

Habitual execution[edit | edit source]

  • Habitual execution however, refers to the post instigation behavioural process itself being automated (Phillips & Gardner, 2016). This deals not with the initial activation of the habitual behaviour (as this is instigation) but with the behavioural process that follows.
  • An example of this would be: "Once exercising, going through the steps of my routine is something i do without thinking/automatically" (Phillips & Gardner, 2016)

While there is a great deal of recent debate surrounding the conceptualisation of habit and its expression (Hagger, 2019; Phillips, 2019), these two distinct processes remain accepted, even if the flexibility and structure of their conception and exhibition is debated. A great deal of clarity arises when comparing multiple sources and their findings on the topic (Gardner, 2014) intertwining habit conceptually with supporting paradigms and measures shed some light on a definition, but it still isn't perfect[vague]. For example, one obstacle is that it is difficult to study and measure habitual behaviour accurately, with most studies relying on correlational studies using self-report measures (Gardner, 2014).

Some literature on the topic also surmises that habits are mainly/solely specific and rigid responses to cues, are respondent to locational and time-stable contexts, goal independent, and arise without conscious awareness (Hagger, 2019). While other sources opt for a more flexible view on habituation (Phillips, 2019) stating that behavioural instigation and execution can be habitual (allowing for variable responses to cues), stabilised contexts can be functional or internal and cued by a preceding action, meaning that cues may not be as dependant[spelling?] on a physical or time-based location for fruition. Also, a more internal focus (than external) for goal direction may characterise habitual development, and other forms of automaticity (with more breadth than just unconscious execution of behaviours) better epitomises habitual action (Phillips, 2019). These debating sources make it clear that there are numerous inconsistencies to be studied [missing something?] explored, however this chapter gives more consideration to the latter, more flexible, interpretation of habit as it better incorporates instigation and execution into its theory.

Impact of habitual processes on behaviour[edit | edit source]

Now the concept of habit (and subsequently habitual instigation and execution) can demonstrate its real-world relevance as it is discussed in correlation with behaviour[vague]. So much of our day to day behaviour is imbued with repletion[say what?], and from this can spring habits if the same internal or external cues arise (Aarts, Paulussen & Schaalma, 1997). If you also incorporate the belief that past experience informs future perception and interaction and apply this directly to behaviours, there are ample cues and forum[grammar?] for habit forming to occur. But what do these habits do once formed?

Function[edit | edit source]

Habits often have the power to streamline behaviours, increasing reaction time and freeing up other processes to concentrate on ulterior[say what?] stimuli. It can allow higher levels of proficiency and skill and often healthier living. Not only this, when used correctly, habits can often help attain ones[grammar?] goals. However, this can often be far more complex as explicit motivations are involved (Wood & Rünger, 2016). It is also important to note, habits are not always beneficial and goal orientated (Miltenberger, Fuqua & Woods, 1998).

A great deal of researches[spelling?] have however noticed the potential of habit forming (Lally & Gardner, 2013) for beneficial purposes. Specifically for application in health promotion and exercise practices (Phillips & Gardner, 2016). On top of this, the impact of habitual impacts are quantifiable when studied in conjunction with exercise, making it an ideal subject for continued research (Gardner, 2014). However, it is important to note that thus far only habitual instigation has been able to be studied in this manner and reasons behind this will be discussed further in the chapter[vague].

Figure 2. Habitual instigation behaviour can be used to predict exercise frequency.

Determinants[edit | edit source]

Habitual behaviour can often be lumped in with other automatic processes such as classical conditioning and priming (Wood & Rünger, 2016). Habitual behaviours themselves are indeed similarly determined by the repetition of a behaviours[grammar?] performance.[grammar?] and is guided by these automated cognitive processes (Aarts, Verplanken & Knippenberg, 1998). With a wide variety of stimuli able to trigger habitual performance[grammar?]. In this case, habitual instigation is what often accounts for habit-action relationships (Gardner, Phillips & Judah, 2016). Numerous variables can act as or develop into cues for habitual behaviours (both instigation and execution based) and ill reiterate that these can be internal cues as well as external ones (Phillips, 2019). Habitual behaviours can also be determined by goal-orientated motivations (Phillips, 2019) and indeed these motivations can act as stimuli for habit forming.

Case study 1

Gary wakes up with an alarm that goes off every morning at 7am. He decided to start going for a run as soon as he rose each morning to improve his fitness and to get healthier. He initially found it difficult to keep to this rhythm and often had to consciously decide to go for a run each morning after he got up. Recently however, he starts his preparation for the run as soon as the alarm goes automatically without even realising it. This is an example of habitual instigation, where the alarm cue triggers selection and initiation of run preparations.

Predictive capabilities[edit | edit source]

Researches[spelling?] have realised the potential for habitual behaviours to be used not only to study current action patterns but also for predicting future behavioural responses (Aarts, Verplanken & Knippenberg, 1998). With this again having a multitude of applications, easily demonstrated through the study of exercise and health-oriented study (Phillips & Gardner, 2016)[grammar?]. Habitual instigation is the key to this yet again. Because it can be measured and collated, trends can be formed and predictions made about future behaviours based upon habitual data (Phillips & Gardner, 2016). Habitual instigation can similarly be used to plot longitudinal exercise behaviour changes, with habitual instigation strength being a strong predictor of exercise frequency (Phillips & Gardner, 2016). With changes in exercise frequency directly correlating to the habitual instigation strength, indicating that these habits possess predictive capabilities, showcasing the importance of developing instigation habits for frequent exercise (Phillips & Gardner, 2016)[grammar?].

Theoretical frameworks and influences[edit | edit source]

As previously mentioned, the main theory that underpins habit as a concept, is that it can be broken down into two incarnations, habitual instigation and habitual execution. That one triggers the selection and initiation of an action (instigation) after being exposed to cues, and the other automates the process of an action through various sub-actions (execution) (Gardner, Phillips & Judah, 2016)[grammar?]. Various theories also raise the idea of these habit sparking cues being external only (Hagger, 2019), and others debate internal influences on habituation (Phillips, 2019). Similarly, some frameworks suggest that habitual processes are unconscious and not goal directed, while others propose that habits can be goal directed and a necessary step in achieving various motivation goals (Phillips, 2019).

However these theories often have to be tested, and to do so designs and frameworks are used to test and quantify these theories. Relative to this topic, the most dominant of which being the self report habit index (SRHI) (Gardner, Phillips & Judah, 2016). A salient enough concept that requires research participants to report on their habitual behaviours which are then correlated over time and report. They can be easily manipulated to befit research aims and hypothesis[grammar?] but naturally rely on self-report data which can be prone to invalidity if biases come into play. With exercise for example, social desirability bias (where individuals report behaviours that will be viewed favourably by others) may come into play and skew results.

Another theoretical concept that can be used to conceptualise habitual instigation especially is conditioning. While habitual behaviours are often more complex than this, it is a well known theoretical framework that can be used to make sense of the process. Classical conditioning being where an initial potent stimulus is paired with neutral stimulus to in turn condition a subject to involuntarily react to the neutral stimulus in the same way the subject would to the initial potent stimulus through repetition. If you relate this to habit forming, a cue can elicit a behavioural response. This cue can involuntarily create a habitual response in some cases through a similar model of repetition.

How this relates to you and your behaviours[edit | edit source]

If you've reached this point in the chapter you've likely recognised the application of habitual instigation and habitual execution to your own life (Gardner, 2014). In whatever form, behaviours are universal as are habits. These habitual processes will arise whether you like it or not bad habits or good ones. One example I've raised is their phenomenal application in exercise practises[spelling?] (Lally & Gardner, 2013) however they can be applied to a multitude of actions and behaviours beyond this. If you utilise the concepts and practises discussed in the determination and prediction sections of the chapter and apply them to your own life you can influence the forming of your own habits, to make tasks easier or more streamlined.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

While the concepts of habitual instigation, habitual execution and their expression are still debated (Hagger, 2019., Phillips, 2019), It is clear they play a pivotal role [missing something?] behaviour and action. Through the process of habit forming they can vary in strength and expression to make everyday processes happen with some automaticity, freeing up cognitive function to focus on other stimuli and higher order tasks. Through the use of cues these habits can both select and initiate behavioural processes and automate processes through the steps of these actions (Gardner, Phillips & Judah, 2016). These cues can be internal or external in nature and can be goal orientated. This theory can (and is) applied to tangible practises[spelling?] from exercise to addictive behaviours and the research supporting it is often measured through a SHRIs[grammar?] and correlation practices. These practices even posses[spelling?] predictive capabilities based upon the strength of habitual instigation elements. Both habitual instigation and execution represent a crucial step in behavioural processes which will be further explored in the relative research to come[vague].

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Aarts, H., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2000). Habits as knowledge structures: Automaticity in goal-directed behavior. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 78(1), 53-63. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.78.1.53

Aarts, H., Paulussen, T., & Schaalma, H. (1997). Physical exercise habit: on the conceptualization and formation of habitual health behaviours. Health Education Research, 12(3), 363-374. doi: 10.1093/her/12.3.363

Aarts, H., Verplanken, B., & Knippenberg, A. (1998). Predicting Behavior From Actions in the Past: Repeated Decision Making or a Matter of Habit?. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 28(15), 1355-1374. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1998.tb01681.x

Gardner, B. (2014). A review and analysis of the use of ‘habit’ in understanding, predicting and influencing health-related behaviour. Health Psychology Review, 9(3), 277-295. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2013.876238

Gardner, B., Phillips, L., & Judah, G. (2016). Habitual instigation and habitual execution: Definition, measurement, and effects on behaviour frequency. British Journal Of Health Psychology, 21(3), 613-630. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12189

Hagger, M. (2019). Redefining habits and linking habits with other implicit processes. Psychology Of Sport And Exercise, 46, 101606. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101606

Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7(1), S137-S158. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2011.603640

Miltenberger, R., Fuqua, R., & Woods, D. (1998). Applying behaviour analysis to clinical problems: review and analysis of habit reversal. Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31(3), 447-469. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1998.31-447

Phillips, L. (2019). Challenging assumptions about habit: A response to Hagger (2019). Psychology Of Sport And Exercise. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.03.005

Phillips, L., & Gardner, B. (2016). Habitual exercise instigation (vs. execution) predicts healthy adults’ exercise frequency. Health Psychology, 35(1), 69-77. doi: 10.1037/hea0000249

Rhodes, R., & Rebar, A. (2018). Physical Activity Habit: Complexities and Controversies. The Psychology Of Habit, 91-109. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-97529-0_6

Wood, W., & Rünger, D. (2016). Psychology of Habit. Annual Review Of Psychology, 67(1), 289-314. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033417

External links[edit | edit source]