Impressions of the March for Science

The March for Science was a great success in bringing scientists and non-scientists together, and making our voice heard. In fact, we talked to so many interested people that we almost lost our voices by the end of the day! Below some impressions of the day…

Habit Lab @ March for Science

At the Habit Lab, we know how important science is. This Saturday, April 22nd, the March for Science is held all over the world, including in Amsterdam, to raise awareness about the importance of science for our community. The Habit Lab will be present to support the March for Science and to demonstrate what our research means for society! You can find us in one of the science tents, wheree we will demonstrate what we study, how we do research, and what its implications are for the community.
Check out the program and pay a visit to the science tents!


Poppy presents at Associative Learning Symposium

From April 11 to 13, the Associative Learning Symposium was held in Wales. In the beautiful, remote environment of the Gregynog Hall, this three-day symposium was filled with inspirational talks and discussions. Here, Poppy presented her recent work on insensitivity to devaluation after extended training in humans and Aukje presented a poster about the effects of different types of implementation intentions for breaking habits.

New article: Stimulus control over food-seeking in obesity

Our environment is full of cues signaling the availability of tasty, but often unhealthy, foods. In this paper, Poppy and colleagues report a recent study that examined the effect of food-associated stimuli on choice behavior in participants with healthy weight versus severe obesity. During a computerized test, participants were exposed to Pavlovian cues predictive of food pictures, and we examined their biasing effect on instrumental choice. For example, would a cue associated with crisps lead to a higher response rate for crisps (as opposed to, for example, lettuce)? Obese participants were indeed found to be more sensitive to high-calorie food cues relative to low-calorie cues. In contrast, healthy-weight individuals did not show a difference between the two food types. Therefore, this study supports the clinical relevance of this associative mechanism, and suggests that severely obese individuals are particularly sensitive to high-calorie food cues whereas low-calorie food cues have little effect on their behavior.

Follow this link to access the paper.

Reference: Watson, P. Wiers, R.W., Hommel, B., Gerdes, V.E.A., de Wit, S. (2017). Stimulus Control over Action for Food in Obese versus Healthy-weight Individuals, Frontiers in Psychology – Eating Behavior,

Follow this link to the Dutch press release

Chapter on habits in new Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control

In the recently published ‘Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control’, Sanne is the author of the chapter entitled ‘Control of Behaviour by Competing Learning Systems’. This chapter provides an overview of experimental research on goal-directed and habitual processes that control our behaviour.

More information? Check the Wiley website!

Reference: de Wit, S (2017). Control of Behaviour by Competing Learning Systems. In T. Egner (Ed.), The Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control (pp. 190-206). Wiley-Blackwell

Aukje presents research at ARPH conference

On February 2nd and 3rd, the ARPH (Association for Researchers in Psychology and Health) conference took place in Leiden. As every year, this conference provided a great overview of the state-of-the-art research concerning health psychology in the Netherlands and Belgium.

In the session concerning ‘Making healthy food choices’, Aukje presented her latest work, entitled ‘Why health warnings fail to change cue-elicited food-seeking behavior’. In this research she used a PIT task to demonstrate how stimuli in the environment interfere with goal-directed behavior, which could make health warnings ineffective in the presence of food-associated stimuli.


ARPH Conference 2017

Assessing Habitual and Goal-Directed Control: New publication

A new paper by Zsuzsika Sjoerds, Sanne de Wit and others is now in press comparing two widely used paradigms that assess aspects of goal-directed and habitual behavior; the two-step sequential decision-making and the slips-of-action paradigm. The findings demonstrate moderate support for a common framework to describe the propensity towards goal-directed behavior, but also suggest that each task assesses distinct aspects of goal-directed behavior.

In press in: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience


Sjoerds, Z., Dietrich, A., Deserno, L., De Wit, S., Villringer, A., Heinze, H.-J., et al. (in press). Slips of action and sequential decisions: A cross-validation study of tasks assessing habitual and goal-directed action control. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10: 234.





New paper on habit propensity relating to sensation seeking not obesity

This project was conducted by Anja Dietrich in the research group of Annette Horstmann at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. The balance between goal-directed and habitual action control was measured in a sample of normal-weight, overweight, and obese participants using the slips-of-action test. We failed to find evidence for a relationship between weight status and sensitivity to outcome devaluation in this test. Independent of weight status, we did observe lower sensitivity to devaluation in sensation seekers, a subtype of impulsivity. This ‘habit propensity’ in sensation seekers may account for previous reports of weak avoidance behavior and risky decision making. In conclusion, behavioral flexibility in the sense of general disturbances in the balance between the habitual and goal-directed systems seems to be unaffected by weight status. Future studies are needed to clarify the role of specific subtypes of obesity (e.g., food addiction).

Reference: Dietrich, A., De Wit, S., Horstmann, A. (2016). General habit propensity relates to the sensation seeking subdomain of impulsivity but not obesity. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10, 213.

Sanne on Radio Swammerdam

On Sunday October 30th, Sanne was a guest on Radio Swammerdam. The show was about habits and addiction. Sanne was interviewed about our research at the Habit Lab, and informed the listeners about habits and addiction. In addition, the show made a report on the Healthyways study with Aukje, which was broadcasted during the show.

Listen to the podcast here! (In Dutch)

Radio Swammerdam is the science program from Amsterdam FM.