Habits in everyday life: Thought, emotion, and action.

To illustrate the differing thoughts and emotions involved in guiding habitual and nonhabitual behavior, 2 diary studies were conducted in which participants provided hourly reports of their ongoing experiences. When participants were engaged in habitual behavior, defined as behavior that had been performed almost daily in stable contexts, they were likely to think about issues unrelated to their behavior, presumably because they did not have to consciously guide their actions. When engaged in nonbabitual behavior, or actions performed less often or in shifting contexts, participants’ thoughts tended to correspond to their behavior, suggesting that thought was necessary to guide action. Furthermore, the self-regulatory benefits of habits were apparent in the lesser feelings of stress associated with habitual than nonhabitual behavior.