Once again research proves what we probably already know. Amazingly, repeating an action leads to habituation! Who'd have thought?
Well to be fair, this isn't the most important aspect some new research from the University of Warwick and published recently in the journal Psychology Review. More important is the implication for concepts like free will and choice. Habits are thought to form through the interaction of "Cue - Routine - Reward". This seems to show that the can habit remains entrenched even when the reward is removed.
In other words, if we've learned (habituated) that "Plan A" gets a reward, then we will continue to repeat "Plan A" even when there is no reward, or where the rewards could be achieved through following a different plan. We stick with what we've learned, even if the world has changed.
Let's put in our context. You form a habit (say drinking socially) that at the time the habit is formed has a range of rewards, including social connection, enjoyment, relaxation, a sense of freedom that comes with the mood modifying effects of alcohol. Then over time we maintain the habit, even where the rewards are no longer as strong, or in many cases no longer come from the routine. You drink out of habit, and no longer for the rewards you experienced when you formed the habit.
The routine is now occurring in spite of, or with little connection to, the rewards that encoded and built the habit in the first place. We just keep on doing what we do.
This is pretty big. Because the gold standard process for habit change is, to swap out Routine A (the unwanted habit), for Routine B (the new habit) and where possible "keep the same reward" that you experience from Routine A.
For many it can be difficult to identify what rewards we get from our bad habits. This may be because the rewards we used to get from the habit - ARE NO LONGER THERE and are no longer part of the cycle. The habit itself, the maintenance of "normal", is the reward.
Habits can form very simply and quickly. "We all get good at what we do everyday." (Ash Grunwald) so pay attention and do things on purpose today that you'd like to repeat by habit tomorrow.
* Training the Brain to Form Good Habits Through Repetition
* Habits without values