Welcome to the Habit Lab at the University of Amsterdam

The Habit Lab is funded by an NWO-VIDI grant awarded to Dr. Sanne de Wit, at the Department of Clinical Psychology, UvA. We investigate associative, motivational and neural processes that underlie behavioural flexibility as well as the making and breaking of habits.

Central aim of the Habit Lab:

Bad habits – such as snacking in front of the television – 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.

The central aim of the Habit Lab is to improve our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie lifestyle habits (e.g. diet and exercise) as well as attempts to change these. 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.

Other topics of interest:

Generally, we are interested in dual-system theory of action control and the role of associative learning mechanisms in goal-directed versus habitual behavior. For example, we investigate the interaction between Pavlovian and instrumental mechanisms in external stimulus control over food-seeking and motivational modulation thereof. Another main interest concerns the role of habits in impulsive-compulsive behavior across a range of clinical conditions, including: obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse and eating disorders, as well as obesity.

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