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.

See: https://www.nwo.nl/en/news-and-events/news/2020/03/replication-studies-third-round-repetition-of-important-research.html

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: https://bit.ly/2ucpPpQ

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: https://escop2019.webs.ull.es/

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.

Sanne invited for presentation in Vienna

On 13 May 2019, Sanne visited Dr. Sabine Tebbich at the University of Vienna, and gave a presentation about translation of animal models to human habit formation at the Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution.

Irene presents at Aging & Cognition 2019

At Aging & Cognition 2019 in Zürich (24-26 April), Irene presented a poster on a study in which we investigate how age-related and individual differences in cognition and personality affect the ability to learn a new pill-taking habit in real life, in the context of medication adherence (picture: Frank Brüderli).

Sanne and Irene participate in ‘Health, Behaviour and Society’, UvA FMG conference 18 May 2019

Parallel sessions, afternoon

Understanding and Optimising Health Interventions
If we want to optimize intervention strategies to enhance human health, we need to understand how they work. This panel brings together researchers committed to understanding and optimizing health interventions, from four different departments (3 FMG; 1 Amsterdam UMC). They will integrate their theoretical and methodological expertise on health interventions to enhance our shared knowledge, and to explore and encourage future within- and between-faculty collaborations.  

  • Hilde Huizenga (Psychology)
  • Julia van Weert / Annemiek Linn (Communication Sciences)
  • Kim Oostrom / Linde Scholten (Pediatric Psychology; Amsterdam UMC)
  • Irene van de Vijver (Psychology)
  • Patty Leijten (Child Development)

Urban dynamics and health
The urban environment comes with specific impacts on people’s health: green spaces under pressure, (un) healthy food choices around every corner, recreational drug use. How do we deal with these? What role can policies play?

  • Socio-spatial analysis of health in cities, by Els Veldhuizen, Urban Planning
  • (Urban) environments, eating habits and health, by Sanne de Wit, Psychology
  • ‘Hassle-free’ highs in the city, by Mishra Swasti, Medical Anthropology


Discussion panel ‘Food, Health, and Sustainability’

Recent international reports like the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems but also the Global Environment Outlook Report ‘Healthy planet, healthy people’,  reconfirm the negative impacts of human consumption on both the planet and on human health. Both reports call for drastic changes in current and future consumption patterns and state that when we make healthy food choices – like less meat and dairy, more vegetables, sustainable food systems – this will not only benefit our own personal health but also our planet. There is a risk that such dietary and behavioural advice by scientific experts encounter public backlash. So, how can we motivate people to make other choices? How can we make sure that worldwide people will have equal access to sustainable food systems? What role can policies play?

Participants panel

Ron Dahl

Ron Dahl is director of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor in the School of Public Health and the Joint Medical Program and Chief Science Officer at the Center for the Developing Adolescent.
Profile page Ron Dahl

Joyeeta Gupta

Joyeeta Gupta is full professor of environment and development in the global south at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research of the University of Amsterdam and IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft. She is presently co-chair of UN Environment’s Global Environmental Outlook-6 (2016-2019) which will be presented to 195 governments participating in the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019.
Profile page Joyeeta Gupta

Jaap Seidell

Jaap Seidell is Professor of nutrition and health (‘voeding en gezondheid’) and director of the Health Sciences Department at VU Amsterdam. He is also director of Sarphati Amsterdam (‘Research for Healthy Living’).
Profile page Jaap Seidell

Sanne de Wit

Sanne de Wit is Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. Her area of research and expertise concerns psychological and neural mechanisms underlying habitual behavior, associative learning and behavioral modification (see www.habitlab.nl).
Profile page Sanne de Wit 

Jonathan Zeitlin

Jonathan Zeitlin will chair this discussion panel. He is Professor of Public Policy and Governance, and Distinguished Faculty Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (FMG) at the University of Amsterdam. He is also Scientific Director of the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES).
Profile page Jonathan Zeitlin


The panel takes place at the plenary venue of the conference, REC C 1.03. The  second panel is followed by a reception at De Brug.


Conference website and registration