Theory and Methods

We use a broad range of methods to deliver theoretical, methodological and empirical research insights across various behaviours.

Ninety-nine hundredths or, possibly, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of our activity is purely automatic and habitual William James, 1891

Theory of habits

Our theoretical research addresses fundamental questions about the nature and role of habit in human behaviour.

  • What is a habit?
  • What is a habitual behaviour? 
  • How long does it take to form a habit?

What is a 'habit'?

GARDNER, B., Rebar, A., de Wit, S., & LALLY, P. (2024) What is habit and how can it be used to change real-world behaviour? Narrowing the theory-reality gap. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 18, e12975.

GARDNER, B., & LALLY, P. (2023). Habit and habitual behaviour. Health Psychology Review, 17, 490-496.

GARDNER, B. (2015) A review and analysis of the use of ‘habit’ in understanding, predicting and influencing health-related behaviour. Health Psychology Review, 9, 277-295.

What is a 'habitual behaviour'?

GARDNER, B. (2022). Habit and behavioral complexity: habitual instigation and execution as predictors of simple and complex behaviors. Current Research in Behavioral Sciences, 3, 100081.

GARDNER, B., Rebar, A.L., & LALLY, P. (2020) ‘Habitually deciding’ or ‘habitually doing’? Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 47, 101539.

GARDNER, B., Rebar, A.L., & LALLY, P. (2019) A matter of habit: recognising the multiple roles of habit in health behaviour. British Journal of Health Psychology, 24, 241-249.

How do habits affect our behaviour?

GARDNER, B., LALLY, P., & Rebar, A. (2020) Does habit weaken the intention-behaviour relationship? Revisiting the habit-intention interaction hypothesis. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 14, e12553.

How long does it take to form a habit?

Keller, J., Kwasnicka, D., Klaiber, P., Sichert, L., LALLY, P., & Fleig, L. (2021), Habit formation following routine-based versus time-based cue planning: A randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Health Psychology, 26, 807-824. 

LALLY, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 9981009.

Methods for understanding habits

Our methodological research aims to develop new ways of studying habit in the real-world.

  • How should habit be studied?
  • What is the best way to measure habit? 

How should habits be studied?

GARDNER, B., Rebar, A., & LALLY, P. (2022). How does habit form? Guidelines for tracking real-world habit formation. Cogent Psychology, 9, 2041277.

GARDNER, B. & LALLY, P. (2018) Modelling habit formation and its determinants. In B. Verplanken (Ed.), The psychology of habit (pp207-229). Berlin: Springer.

How should habits be measured?

Diefenbacher, S., LALLY, P., & GARDNER, B. (2023). Habit formation in context: Context-specific and context-free measures for tracking fruit consumption habit formation and behaviour. British Journal of Health Psychology, 28, 499-512.

Rebar, A., GARDNER, B., Rhodes, R.E., & Verplanken, B. (2018). The measurement of habit. In B. Verplanken (Ed.), The psychology of habit (pp31-49). Berlin: Springer.

The Self-Report Behavioural Automaticity Index (SRBAI)

GARDNER, B., Abraham, C., LALLY, P., & de Bruijn, G.-J. (2012) Towards parsimony in habit measurement: Testing the convergent and predictive validity of an automaticity subscale of the Self-Report Habit Index. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9, 102. 

Future directions in habit research

GARDNER, B., Arden, M. A., Brown, D., Eves, F. F., [...] & LALLY, P. (2023) Developing habit-based health behaviour change interventions: Twenty-one questions to guide future research. Psychology and Health, 38, 518-540.