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Reflecting on non-reflective action: An exploratory think-aloud study of self-report habit measures

Gardner, B; Tang, V; (2014) Reflecting on non-reflective action: An exploratory think-aloud study of self-report habit measures. British Journal of Health Psychology , 19 (2) 258 - 273. 10.1111/bjhp.12060. Green open access

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Abstract

Objectives. Within health psychology, habit – the tendency to enact action automatically as a learned response to contextual cues – is most commonly quantified using the ‘Self-Report Habit Index’, which assesses behavioural automaticity, or measures combining self-reported behaviour frequency and context stability. Yet, the use of self-report to capture habit has proven controversial. This study used ‘think aloud’ methods to investigate problems experienced when completing these two measures. Design. Cross-sectional survey with think-aloud study. Methods. Twenty student participants narrated their thoughts while completing habit measures applied to four health-related behaviours (active commuting, unhealthy snacking, and one context-free and one context-specific variant of alcohol consumption). Data were coded using thematic analysis procedures. Results. Problems were found in 10% of responses. Notable findings included participants lacking confidence in reporting automaticity, struggling to recall behaviour or cues, differing in interpretations of ‘commuting’, and misinterpreting items. Conclusions. While most responses were unproblematic, and further work is needed to investigate habit self-reports among larger and more diverse samples, findings nonetheless question the sensitivity of the measures, and the conceptualisation of habit underpinning common applications of them. We offer suggestions to minimise these problems.

Type: Article
Title: Reflecting on non-reflective action: An exploratory think-aloud study of self-report habit measures
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/bjhp.12060
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12060
Language: English
Additional information: © 2014 The Authors. British Journal of Health Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the British Psychological Society This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Habit; self-report; think-aloud; measurement;
UCL classification: 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 Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1398320
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