Welcome to the Habit Lab at the University of Amsterdam

Central aim
The central aim of the Habit Lab is to improve our understanding of the associative, motivational and neural processes that underlie goal-directed and habitual behaviour. To this end, we combine different research methods: experimental research, real-life diary research, and finally neuroimaging to investigate the neural correlates of habit making & breaking. The Habit Lab is part of the Department of Clinical Psychology, UvA.

Implementation intentions
Bad habits (e.g. concerning diet and a sedentary lifestyle) are notoriously hard to break. Merely formulating a goal is usually insufficient. How can we help people to act on their good intentions and achieve healthier behaviours? ‘Implementation intentions’ – i.e., concrete plans concerning the situation in which the intended behaviour should occur – have been shown to enhance the probability of success. However, to further improve and individually tailor such cognitive planning strategies it is necessary to gain insight into the mechanisms underlying its effectiveness. This research project is supported by a VIDI grant from NWO.

The role of habits in psychopathologies
Are some people more prone than others to develop strong habits (and/or weak goal-directed control) and may this contribute to compulsive behaviour, e.g. in addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder? We work together with clinical psychologists to investigate this important issue in different psychopathologies.

Pavlovian-instrumental interactions
Reward-associated stimuli in the environment can influence our behaviour via learnt associations (e.g. the Golden arches may trigger a visit to this fastfood chain). To gain a better understanding of such external stimulus control over behaviour, we use experimental paradigms to investigate the interaction between Pavlovian and instrumental mechanisms and motivational modulation thereof.

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