The authors investigated whether people differ in their propensity to form habits, by relating individual differences on a computer task measuring habitual behavior to habit formation tendencies in real life. Habit formation in real life was measured by covering the key to the participant’s home with a new cover. This cover was later switched to a different key and changes in the key-selection process were measured. Participants that performed better on the computer task also seemed to require less attention to adjust to the switching key situation.
Read the article here!
Linnebank, F.E., Kindt, M. & de Wit, S. (2018). Investigating the balance between goal-directed and habitual control in experimental and real-life settings. Learning & Behavior. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-018-0313-6
In this article, Julia Gottwald, Sanne de Wit, and colleagues investigated performance of teenagers with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) on critical cognitive domains for daily functioning and academic success, including goal-directed behavioral control, cognitive flexibility, learning, and memory. Patients demonstrated a significant learning and memory impairment compared to healthy control subjects, as well as impairments in goal-directed goal and cognitive plasticity. These results add to our understanding of juvenile OCD.
Read the article here!
Gottwald, J., De Wit, S., Apergis-Schoute, A., Morein-Zamir, S., Kaser, M., Cormack, F., . . . Sahakian, B. (2018). Impaired cognitive plasticity and goal-directed control in adolescent obsessive–compulsive disorder. Psychological Medicine, 1-9.
In their new study, Aukje, Poppy and Sanne investigated why the effects of health warnings on our food-choice behavior is typically rather limited. Using the Pavlovian-instrumental transfer task, participants learned associations between stimuli (abstract pictures), behavior and food products. Participants then read a text stating that one of the foods is unhealthy. In the task, participants then showed that in the absence of stimuli, people chose food products in line with health warnings. However, in the presence of food-related stimuli, their responding was biased towards that food product, regardless of the health warning and regardless of their desire for that product.
Read the article here: www.sciencedirect.com
Read the press release here in Dutch or English.
Aukje A. C. Verhoeven, Poppy Watson, & Sanne de Wit (2018). Failing to pay heed to health warnings in a food-associated environment. Appetite, 120, 616-626.
Aukje demonstrates the computerized PIT task that was used for this research.
For many people, the new year starts with New Year’s resolutions. Dutch newspaper ‘Trouw’ asked Aukje about how to enact these good intentions.
You can read the article here (in Dutch): www.trouw.nl/home/goede-voornemens-stel-je-automatische-piloot-opnieuw-in~ac28eb30/
In their new paper, Poppy and Sanne provide a review of outcome devaluation paradigms. They outline that such paradigms are useful but that they do not inform us to what extent insensitivity to outcome devaluation can be attributed to either strong habit formation or to weak goal-directed control. They provide suggestions for future research as well as alternative paradigms to study such processes.
Read the article here!
Watson, P., & de Wit, S. (2018). Current limits of experimental research into habits and future directions. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 20, 33-39.
As of yesterday, the Habit Lab has a new member: Irene van de Vijver. Irene will be working as a post-doc focussing on the neural underpinnings of habitual behavior and implementation intentions.
If you want to read more about her interesting research and wealth of expertise, visit her personal page:
Irene van de Vijver
In this new study, using fMRI data, the authors demonstrated how the precision of representations in perceptual and motor areas is affected by the specific action goal and the associated reward value when participants prepare face or hand actions. The article is now in press in NeuroImage.
van Steenbergen, H., Warren, C.M., Kühn, S., de Wit, S., Wiers, R.W., & Hommel, B. (in press). Representational precision in visual cortex reveals outcome encoding and reward modulation during action preparation. NeuroImage
The interplay between inflexible habits and flexible goal-directed behaviour can be experimentally modelled using
the slips-of-action task. In a new article, we report how such habits can be changed with implementation intentions (specific if-then action plans). We demonstrate that implementation intentions improved the ability to suppress previously learnt responses towards no-longer-valuable abstract outcomes. However, when food outcomes were used, the beneficial effect of implementation intentions versus goal intentions was not observed. The article will be published in Special Issue on Learning via Instructions in Acta Psychologica.
Reference: Verhoeven, A.A.C., Kindt, M., Zomer, C.L., & de Wit, S. (in press). An experimental investigation of breaking learnt habits with verbal implementation intentions. Acta Psychologica.
In this neuroimaging study, we investigated the effect of environmental stimuli on food choices (using a Pavlovian-instrumental transfer paradigm). We replicated earlier studies that found that sating participants on a particular food immediately reduces their responding to obtain this food in a computerized task. However, when food-associated (Pavlovian) stimuli are presented in the background, these will bias responding towards the signaled food regardless of satiation. Next, we related behavioral performance to multimodal MRI. The biasing effect of food-associated stimuli was related to brain activity in the posterior putamen and functional coupling with amygdala, and individual differences in gray matter in premotor cortex. This brain network was previously implicated in inflexible, outcome-insensitive habits. On the other hand, we found that goal-directed behavior in the absence of food-associated cues was related to brain activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex and individual differences in white-matter tract connectivity with the caudate. Therefore, this study provides evidence for dissociable neural networks that subserve inflexible, stimulus-guided behavior versus goal-directed action.
van Steenbergen, H., Watson, P., Wiers, R.W., Hommel, B., & de Wit, S. (in press). Dissociable corticostriatal circuits underlie goal-directed versus cue-elicited habitual food seeking after satiation: Evidence from a multimodal MRI study. European Journal of Neuroscience.
For a commentary on this article, see: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ejn.13617/pdf