ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (7): 1209-1218.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.01209

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles    

Mechanisms and strategies for cultivating behavioral habits within the field of public policy

DU Liting1(), LI Dongjin2   

  1. 1School of Humanities, Tiangong University, Tianjin 300387, China
    2Business School, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China
  • Received:2019-09-17 Online:2020-07-15 Published:2020-05-21
  • Contact: DU Liting


Restructuring daily habits is one of the most effective ways to solve social problems in the field of public policy. Understanding how to build behavioral habits is valuable for policy makers to develop and implement policies that support public health and wellness. Behavioral habits are context-response associations that develop through instrumental learning and rewards. As a type of implicit memory system, behavioral habits exhibit features, such as automaticity, context-dependence, and the ability to forgo alternative, immediate rewards. Behavioral habit formation emerges through two learning mechanisms: “context-response” association learning and implicit rewards learning. Psychology reveals that building successful habits depends not only on repetition but also on the presence of stable context cues and the rewards provided. In the early stages of habit formation, goals motivate individuals to repeat beneficial behaviors. Based on the core valences in the process of cultivating good behavioral habits, we outline three intervention strategies for public policy makers, including context stability, repetition, and rewards, which will enable them to better understand habits and design strategies that assist in cultivating behavioral habits. Further research would explore habits from a more diverse range of fields, experiment with new research paradigms, examine the possibility of redesigning public facilities for the purpose of increasing access to beneficial behaviors, and collaborate with commercial businesses to nudge members of society to restructure their daily routine.

Key words: behavioral habit, formation mechanisms, strategies, public policy

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