Sociale Vraagstukken: “Investeer in publieke ruimte die fysieke afstand vergemakkelijkt”

Anderhalve meter afstand houden vinden we steeds moeilijker worden. Vooral jongeren lijken er minder toe bereid. Investeer daarom nationaal in een alternatieve aanpak, betogen vier wetenschappers: nudging, waarmee het gedrag van mensen wordt beïnvloed door aanpassingen in hun omgeving.

Door Sanne de Wit, Nynke van der Laan, Frenk van Harreveld, Bart Engelen

Stadszaken: Waarom afstand houden lastig is (en 6 andere inzichten over physical distancing)

Het houden van anderhalve meter afstand ging de afgelopen periode vaak goed, maar soms ook mis, met afgelopen weekend enkele incidenten op stranden en een demonstratie op de Dam als voorbeeld. Waarom vinden we afstand houden toch zo moeilijk, ook al weten we waarom het belangrijk is? vroeg het aan gedragswetenschapper Sanne de Wit:

ABC Talent grant awarded to Tim and Sanne: the promises and perils of a digital detox

Tim van Timmeren was awarded the ABC Talent Grant in the April ’20 round of the Amsterdam Brain & Cognition Centre, UvA (PI: Sanne de Wit).  The project is entitled: The promises and perils of a ‘digital detox’: An integrated investigation of the role of craving, habits and corticostriatal pathways.

Many young adults spend 3-5 hours daily on social media and some indicate that they feel ‘addicted’, pointing to an emerging public health problem. The idea of a “digital detox” to regain control over social media use has become increasingly popular. However, the effectiveness of detox-interventions remains controversial. The promise of a detox is that it helps to break the habit, but the peril is that it could ultimately lead to intensified use as a consequence of “incubation of craving”. In this ABC Talent project, we aim to elucidate the effects of a digital detox on social media use, and the underlying mechanisms of habit and craving. During and following a detox intervention, we will apply Ecological Momentary Assessment of self-reported craving and automaticity and relate this to duration and frequency of social media use. Additionally, we will conduct an fMRI investigation of the mechanisms underlying a digital detox.

NWO Replication grant awarded: 66 days to form a habit?

Sanne obtained a replication grant from NWO to replicate the research by Lally et al. from 2010 into the time it takes for habits to form. The study by Lally et al. has been very influential, in science and in the media. The finding of median 66 days it took to form a new habit is often cited. The study will be replicated in four locations with a team of researchers (Jaap Murre, Lotte Brinkhof, Annette Horstmann, Paul Fletcher, Maik Bieleke, and Julia Schüler), on a larger sample, and the researchers hope to gain insight into how habits are formed.

By funding replication NWO wants to contribute to increasing the transparency of research and the quality of how results are reported. The funding instrument aims at cornerstone research that in the past formed the basis for follow-up research or have assumed an important place in education, policy-making or the public debate.


Sanne gives outreach lecture on the obesogenic environment

Sanne gave a lecture about the science of temptation and sticky habits to secondary school pupils who visited UvA for a day on the 5th of March 2020. The aim of the outreach event is to offer insight into what it is like to do research and study at the faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UvA.

Lotte starts her PhD at the Centre for Urban Mental Health

As part of a unique multidisciplinary research team, the Habit Lab is involved with one of the UMH projects, focussing on active and healthy aging. Under supervision of Prof. Richard Ridderinkhof (Dept. of Psychology – Developmental and Brain & Cognition), dr. Harm Krugers (SILS-CNS), Prof. Jaap Murre (Dept. of Psychology – Brain & Cognition) and dr. Sanne de Wit (Dept. Clinical Psychology, Habit Lab), Lotte Brinkhof will dedicate her PhD research to improving our understanding of the factors that affect healthy aging and resilience to stressful perturbations. The central part of this project concerns a network analysis, with the aim to find out which (and how) factors influence healthy aging and resilience to cope with (stressful) disruptions. These insights will then be used to develop and test personalized (preventive) interventions, specifically aimed at improving flexibility of behaviour and habit formation. As previous research has shown that people rely more and more on their habits as they age, it is expected that such interventions will be especially helpful in the elderly to promote the development of automatisms and thereby facilitate the achievement of goals. In addition, we will conduct translational studies (in rodents) to look at the direct influence of stressful perturbations on cognitive flexibility and habit formation during aging. This will help to understand and define the circumstances (and limitations) for optimal application of the interventions to stimulate habit formation. The ultimate goal: promoting healthy aging (in urban settings).

The newly founded Centre for Urban Mental Health  (UMH) aims to unravel the complexities behind mental health in urban environments and develop new intervention strategies. Research is aimed at understanding why some groups or individuals thrive in an urban setting, whereas others are vulnerable, get stuck and develop mental problems.

Tim obtains KNAW grant

Tim obtained a KNAW Van der Gaag Grant to prof. John O’Doherty’s Human Reward and Decision-Making Lab at Caltech, California, USA. During his visit, he will analyze fMRI data that will be collected in the coming months, investigating the neural mechanisms underlying rapid habit formation using implementation intentions.

Tim was interviewed by the UvA-news

At the beginning of 2020, Tim was interviewed by the UvA-news about why people so often fail to attain to their New Year’s resolutions. Find the interview, which includes some practical tips for making and breaking habits, here:

Tim presents at Erasmus Uni

On 23 January, Tim presented at the ROCKS meeting, Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences in Rotterdam. He mainly talked about several studies from his PhD thesis, titled ‘Addiction: a striatal roller-coaster: on the neural and associative-learning mechanisms underlying gambling and alcohol use disorder.

Tim, Irene and Lotte at NVP 2019

At the infamous NVP (December 19-21), Egmond aan Zee, Tim presented a poster on his recent work showing that taxing working-memory load leads to inflexible habitual responding. During a run on the beach, he also spotted a young seal that was drifted ashore! Lotte presented a poster on a study that was led by irene into routine formation (and implementation intentions) to promote medication adherence in healthy aging, in which lab and real-life measures of cognitive functioning and habit learning were combined. Last but not least, Irene presented a poster on the neural dynamics supporting habit acquisition and adjustment as investigated with a novel habit paradigm combined with EEG measurement.

Irene presents findings of large-scale investigation of medication adherence in younger and older adults

On the 5th of December, Irene presented the first results of our study on the role of routine formation in the promotion of medication adherence in healthy aging to a large number of the older adults that participated in the study. Whereas this sneak preview was for a limited audience, once the final results are published they will of course be announced here!

Grant awarded: Active healthy Aging

The newly founded Centre for Urban Mental Health (UMH) awarded a grant to Richard Ridderinkhof, Harm Krugers, Jaap Murre and Sanne de Wit to study determinants of well-being and resilience in the face of stressful perturbations in healthy aging using a network approach.

For more information about the UMH initiative, see:

Sanne and Irene present recent work at Tilburg University

On the 28th of October, Sanne and Irene presented their work on the neural basis of habits and automaticity at the Dept. of Medical and Clinical psychology at the University of Tilburg. Sanne presented the results from a DTI investigation of individual differences in real-world routine formation, and Irene presented an EEG investigation of neural dynamics supporting habit acquisition and their adjustment.

Tim presents his poster at ESCOP 2019

At ESCOP 2019 (26-28 September), located at the sunny Tenerife, Tim presents a poster on a study investigating whether the use of implementation intentions leads to inflexible habits and increased automaticity – with a very attentive audience.

21st conferene of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology

The ESCOP 2019 meeting at Tenerife is coming up! We will be presenting our recent studies into habit formation:

Irene will give an oral presentation on the EEG correlates of habits and implementation intentions.

Tim will give a poster presentation on preliminary findings concerning the influence of implementation intentions on behavioural flexibility.

Sanne will give an oral presentation on the role of corticostriatal pathways in real-world routine formation and automatization.

More information can be found here:

Tim van Timmeren defended his PhD thesis at the Agnietenkapel in Amsterdam.

On Friday July 5th (’19) Tim was promoted to Dr. Tim after successfully defending his PhD thesis, entitled: “Addiction: a striatal roller-coaster. On the neural and associative-learning mechanisms underlying gambling and alcohol use disorder” (available here)! Congratulations to Tim and his supervisors Anneke Goudriaan and Ruth Holst!


Sanne gives a presentation at ICANA-4, Yale 2019

Sanne presents our research into novel (real life and lab) models of habit formation at the 4th International Conference on Applications of Neuroimaging to Alcoholism
ICANA-4, July 19-21, 2019. ICANA-4 is part of the NIAAA Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism (CTNA) based at the Yale University Department of Psychiatry.

Sanne will present in Madrid

On 28 May 2019, Sanne visits the Centro Integral de Neurociencias A.C. (CINAC) at Madrid, where she will give a presentation on obstacles and promises in habit research.