The Science of Habits, Good and Bad

Repeating a certain behavior wears a path in the mind, whether it is speaking a foreign language or smoking cigarettes. Here is a scientific approach to acquiring better habits. 

What's the Latest Development?


A new book takes a scientific approach to how we develop different habits, whether it is the ease that comes from repeating complex behaviors like learning a musical instrument, or chemical dependencies like alcohol addiction. The book is Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" and in it, the author says that by understanding how we create habits, good and bad, we can take responsibility for our behavior and even help change the orientation of society. 

What's the Big Idea?

Duhigg identifies four ways habits are formed. One is repetition. By repeating a behavior, such as practicing the guitar, we wear grooves in the mind. To change a habit, we must begin learning a new routine and repeating it over and over. Other habits are formed through chemical dependencies, often requiring intensive treatment and strong community support to overcome. Another kind of habit is formed by obeying social norms. In 1984, 85 percent of people did not wear seat belts. Today, 85 percent of people do wear seat belts. Scientists say perhaps the most effective way to change behavior is to change how that behavior is perceived. Finally, other habits are formed mentally, i.e. how we think of ourselves influences many of our behaviors. 

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less