Breaking habitual behaviour? – Try using the wrong hand!

We’ve been exploring how triggering a change in behaviour can disrupt  unconscious habits and lead to change. It’s never easy but it’s certainly easier than trying to change attitudes!

Much of human behaviour is unconscious, triggered by context. If you can alter the context (even in a small way), it can break the habit.

A recent study shows that when habitual popcorn eaters are in the familiar  context of the cinema, they’ll consume just as much stale popcorn as fresh popcorn even though they say they don’t like the taste of the stale stuff and they aren’t hungry. If, however, the experiment is carried out in an unfamiliar context then they don’t consume much of the stale popcorn and the amount they do consume IS affected by how hungry they are.

Perhaps more intriguingly, the experimenters got the same effect by switching which hand the popcorn munchers used. If it was their usual (i.e. dominant) hand, then they merrily consumed popcorn fresh or stale  regardless of taste or hunger levels. If asked to use their non-dominant hand, then their consumption dropped off for stale popcorn and became hunger dependent.

Hm….. I’m busy thinking of similarly simple ways to break the fluid execution of  habitual behaviours.

About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
This entry was posted in Psychology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Breaking habitual behaviour? – Try using the wrong hand!

  1. intomind says:

    i’ve heard about this and i tried it out, it actually works!

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