Habit discontinuity, self-activation, and the diminishing influence of context change: evidence from the UK Understanding Society survey

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Journal Article

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Gregory Owen Thomas, Wouter Poortinga and Elena Sautkina

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Repeated behaviours in stable contexts can become automatic habits. Habits are resistant to information-based techniques to change behaviour, but are contextually cued, so a change in behaviour context (e.g., location) weakens habit strength and can facilitate greater consideration of the behaviour. This idea was demonstrated in previous work, whereby people with strong environmental attitudes have lower car use, but only after recently moving home. We examine the habit discontinuity hypothesis by analysing the Understanding Society dataset with 18,053 individuals representative of the UK population, measuring time since moving home, travel mode to work, and strength of environmental attitudes. Results support previous findings where car use is significantly lower among those with stronger environmental views (but only after recently moving home), and in addition, demonstrate a trend where this effects decays as the time since moving home increases. We discuss results in light of moving into a new home being a potential ‘window of opportunity’ to promote pro-environmental behaviours.








Environmental Sociology, Psychology, Commuting, Travel, Housing Market and Social Behaviour



Open Access; © 2016 Thomas et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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