Predictors Of Habit Formation

A british study from 2018, investigated wether certain factors could predict how likely people were to maintaing or alter their walking behaviours.

Participants underwent a survey where they were asked to describe their walking habits at certain routes, and then answer a survey investigating factors such as their felt degree of control of walking how they wanted, their attitude towards walking, social norms coupled with walking.

Not very surprisingly, ones attitude towards walking could significantly predict wether one would maintain a habit of walking or not. This might seem trivial, but this points to the necessity in any habit formation program, to actually work with ones motivation for walking - rather than figuring out how to facilitate the habit more practically.

Another interesting result, was that felt control over ones habit, could significantly predict how much one would walk. Control is normally increased, when resources and hurdles are laid out in systematic ways, which is important work to do in designing any new habit.

Finally, in follow up-surveys, people who in the beginning had strong habit of walking, also seemed more likely to maintain their habits over time. This could be related to how habits usually form - they become automatized systems that are easier to maintain without subjective planning, over time.

Overall, there are a few takeaways from this study:

  • Start with attitude before planning what to do. If you are not actually motivated to do what you feel you should - what would be worthwile to do?

  • Increase felt control by concretely planning what you actually need in terms of resources.

  • Start doing something quickly. Habits only get easier by feedback over time.



E, L Bird et al. (2018). Predicting walking and cycling behaviour change using an extended Theory of Planned Behaviour. Journal of Transport and Health. 10. 11-27.

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