Habit is an automatic and rigid pattern of behavior in specific situations, which is usually acquired through repetition and develops through associative learning (see also System 1 in dual-system theory), when actions become paired repeatedly with a context or an event (Dolan et al., 2010). ‘Habit loops’ involve a cue that triggers an action, the actual behavior, and a reward. For example, habitual drinkers may come home after work (the cue), drink a beer (the behavior), and feel relaxed (the reward) (Duhigg, 2012). Behaviors may initially serve to attain a particular goal, but once the action is automatic and habitual, the goal loses its importance. For example, popcorn may habitually be eaten in the cinema despite the fact that it is stale (Wood & Neal, 2009). Habits can also be associated with status quo bias.
Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., & Vlaev, I. (2010). MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy. London, UK: Cabinet Office.
Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House.
Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2009). The habitual consumer. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19, 579-592.