This presentation will first explore possible domains of mental habits, including personality, social interaction, identity, emotion, mind wandering, and contemplative practice.  From the perspective of grounded cognition, the question will be raised as to how “mental” are mental habits, given that they appear to be strongly grounded in external situations (and conversely that physical habits typically have strong mental components). Then there will be a brief review of central themes from behavioral and neuroscience research on habits, including the constant interplay of intentions with conditioning and automaticity. Of particular interest will be how habits often override intentions and how intentions constantly modulate habits. The idea that habits are organized around the Situated Action Cycle, which integrates the environment, self-relevance, affect, action, and outcomes will be proposed. From this perspective, a new method for measuring, understanding, and predicting health behaviors—the Situated Assessment Method (SAM2)—that Barsalou and colleagues have used to study both physical habits (e.g., eating, trichotillomania) and mental habits (e.g., stress, mindfulness)—will be discussed.  As will be shown, when habit measurement is situated, assessments of habits can differ considerably from when they’re unsituated, as in standard self-report instruments. To conclude, results of a neuroimaging experiment that addresses a brief mindfulness intervention on eating will be shared, which raise potentially interesting questions about how mindfulness habits develop.

Lawrence Barsalou

University of Glasgow

Convening Faculty

Lawrence Barsalou is professor of psychology at the University of Glasgow in the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology. He received a B.A. in psychology from the University of California, San … MORE