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What influences the selection of contextual cues when starting a new routine behaviour? An exploratory study.

Stawarz, K; Gardner, B; Cox, A; Blandford, A; (2020) What influences the selection of contextual cues when starting a new routine behaviour? An exploratory study. BMC Psychology , 8 (1) , Article 29. 10.1186/s40359-020-0394-9. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Contextual cues play an important role in facilitating behaviour change. They not only support memory but may also help to make the new behaviour automatic through the formation of new routines. However, previous research shows that when people start a new behaviour, they tend to select cues that lack effectiveness for prompting behaviour. Therefore, it is important to understand what influences cue selection, as this can help to identify acceptable cues, which in turn could inform future behaviour change interventions to help people select cues that best fit their context and so ensure continued repetition. METHODS: We conducted a qualitative study to investigate what cues people select, how, and what influences their decisions. We recruited 39 participants and asked them to take vitamin C tablets daily for 3 weeks and later interviewed them about their experience. Quantitative habit strength and memory measures were taken for descriptive purposes. RESULTS: Cue selection was primarily influenced by a desire to minimise effort, e.g. keeping related objects at hand or in a visible place; prior experience with similar behaviours (regardless of whether the cues used in the past were reliable or not); and beliefs about effective approaches. In addition, we found that suboptimal remembering strategies involved reliance on a single cue and loosely defined plans that do not specify cues. Moreover, for many participants, identifying optimal cues required trial and error, as people were rarely able to anticipate in advance what approach would work best for them. CONCLUSIONS: Future behaviour change interventions that rely on routine behaviours might fruitfully include the provision of educational information regarding what approaches are suboptimal (single factors, vaguely defined plans) and what is most likely to work (combining multiple clearly defined cues). They should also assess people's existing beliefs about how to best remember specific behaviours as such beliefs can either enhance or inhibit the cues they select. Finally, interventions should account for the fact that early failures to remember are part of the process of developing a reliable remembering strategy and to be expected.

Type: Article
Title: What influences the selection of contextual cues when starting a new routine behaviour? An exploratory study.
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s40359-020-0394-9
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-0394-9
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Behaviour change, Contextual cues, Digital interventions, Habit formation, Memory support
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > UCL Interaction Centre
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10094674
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