A new study published in Psychological Science reveals that we often blame our mood for our behavior even though it is, in many cases, prompted by habit. According to the study, this bias frequently leads us to misattribute the real cause of our behavior.
“A study by my co-author, Dr. Wendy Wood, found that more than 40% of people’s daily behavior was habitual,” says psychologist Asaf Mazar of the University of Southern California. “Habits can be activated automatically without conscious thought, which means that habits are often the default response we revert to unless we have a strong desire to act differently.”
To explain this, Mazar cites the common example of a morning coffee routine. When people drink coffee in the morning, their brain learns to pair cues in their environment (like stepping into the kitchen) with drinking coffee. Once this association is formed, coffee drinking is automatically activated when they enter the associated context.