psychology | November 18, 2019

Creatures of Habit: Angela Duckworth and Katherine Milkman Explore the Power of Habit in Shaping Behavior

How did Benjamin Franklin, one of the most revered figures in American history, accomplish so much in his lifetime? One argument for his success is that he was a creature of habit. In this episode of Choiceology, Katherine Milkman considers how our habits shape our behaviors—for better and worse—alongside her guest, academic leader Angela Duckworth

From the tendency to glance at our phone throughout the day, to the drills firefighters repeat to internalize certain behaviors, we all have habits. In her latest episode of Choiceology, host Katherine Milkman explores why and how so many of our behaviors occur on autopilot—for better and for worse. Throughout the episode, she speaks to firefighter Stephan Kesting, psychologist Wendy Wood, and distinguished professor Angela Duckworth, who explain the potentially life-saving function of habits, the science behind why we have them and how they’re formed, and the role they play in self-control and persistence, respectively.


In Duckworth’s case, having studied self-control and grit for her entire professional life, she noted that success and self-control has a lot to do with habits. “When I first started studying self-control, I thought, well, self-controlled people are really good at suppressing impulses,” Duckworth explains. She soon discovered self-controlled people did more than resist temptation—they had strategies that they formed into habits they didn’t even have to think about. “That automaticity, that effortlessness of doing what is good for you in the long run, despite momentary temptation is a lot of the reason why self-controlled people are healthier, they’re more successful, they enjoy richer social lives, and so forth,” explains Duckworth.


Listen to the full episode here.


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literature | November 15, 2019