The goal-dependent automaticity of drinking habits

Paschal Sheeran, Henk Aarts, Ruud Custers, Amanda Rivis, Thomas L. Webb, Richard Cooke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent treatments of habitual social behaviour, habits are conceptualized as a form of goal-directed automatic behaviour that are mentally represented as goal-action links. Three experiments tested this conceptualization in the context of students' drinking (alcohol consumption)habits. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions where either a goal related to drinking behaviour (socializing) was activated, or an unrelated goal was activated. In addition, participants' drinking habits were measured. The dependent variable in Experiments 1 and 2 was readiness to drink, operationalized by speed of responding to the action concept 'drinking' in a verb verification task. Experiment 3 used the uptake of a voucher to measure drinking behaviour. Findings supported the view that when habits are established, simply activating a goal related to the focal behaviour automatically elicits that behaviour. These findings are consistent with a goal-dependent conception of habit. Possibilities for interventions designed to attenuate undesirable habitual behaviours are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-63
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


  • adolescent
  • adult
  • alcohol drinking
  • alcoholic intoxication
  • automatism
  • social behavior
  • goals
  • habits
  • social environment
  • internal-external control
  • reaction time
  • motivation
  • questionnaires


Dive into the research topics of 'The goal-dependent automaticity of drinking habits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this