Welcome to the Habit Lab at the University of Amsterdam

The Habit Lab was founded by Sanne de Wit at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. Our mission is to bridge the gap between fundamental research into habits and clinical & health psychology.

Interdisciplinary approach
To gain insight into the psychological and neural processes underlying the making and breaking of habits, we adopt an interdisciplinary approach. Experimental research is combined with neuroimaging and real-life (habit tracking) diary research, in the general population and in mental disorders.

The role of habits in mental disorders
Some people are more creatures of habit than others. Does a tendency to rely on habits (as opposed to flexible, goal-directed control) contribute to the development and maintenance of addictive and compulsive behaviours, e.g. in substance abuse, behavioural addictions and obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Behavioural interventions
Bad habits are notoriously hard to break. Merely formulating a goal is generally insufficient. How can we help people to act on their good intentions and achieve healthier behaviours? This is a central question in our research. Most prominently, we investigate the effectiveness of ‘implementation intentions’ – i.e., concrete plans concerning the situation in which the intended behaviour should occur, that have been shown to support goal achievement. We study the underlying psychological and neural mechanisms, and we aim to further improve this strategic planning intervention and identify relevant individual differences. This work is supported by a VIDI grant from NWO.

External triggers of reward seeking
Reward-associated stimuli in the environment can influence our behaviour via learnt associations (e.g. a logo of a fastfood restaurant may trigger a visit to buy a cheeseburger). To gain a better understanding of such external stimulus control over behaviour, we investigate the interaction between Pavlovian and instrumental mechanisms.

For specific questions about our research, please email: s.dewit@uva.nl