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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Habits and Reflective Processes in COVID-19 Transmission-reducing Behaviors: Examining Theoretical Predictions in a Representative Sample of the Population of Scotland
Author(s): den Daas, Chantal
Dixon, Diane
Hubbard, Gill
Allan, Julia
Johnston, Marie
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Keywords: COVID - 19
Transmission-reducing behaviours
Personal routine tendency
Reflective processes
Issue Date: Nov-2023
Date Deposited: 9-Oct-2023
Citation: den Daas C, Dixon D, Hubbard G, Allan J & Johnston M (2023) Habits and Reflective Processes in COVID-19 Transmission-reducing Behaviors: Examining Theoretical Predictions in a Representative Sample of the Population of Scotland. <i>Annals of Behavioral Medicine</i>, 57 (11), pp. 910-920.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Based on theory, COVID-19 transmission-reducing behaviors (TRBs) should become habitual because of their frequent performance. Habits have been hypothesized to develop through reflective processes and, to act in conjunction with them. PURPOSE: We investigated the existence, development, and consequences of TRB habits, for physical distancing, handwashing, and wearing face coverings. METHODS: A representative sample of the Scottish population (N = 1,003) was interviewed by a commercial polling company in August-October 2020 and half were re-interviewed later. Measures included adherence, habit, personal routine tendency, reflective processes, and action control for three TRBs. Data were analyzed using general linear modeling, regression, and mediation analyses. RESULTS: Handwashing was most habitual; only face covering became more habitual over time. Routine tendencies predicted TRB habits, and adherence to handwashing and physical distancing. Those reporting greater habits reported better adherence, for physical distancing and handwashing, and this remained true after controlling for previous adherence. Reflective and habit processes independently predicted adherence for physical distancing and handwashing; only reflective processes were independently predictive for face covering. The relationship between planning and forgetting and adherence was partly direct, and partly mediated by habit. CONCLUSIONS: The results confirm hypotheses from habit theory including the role of repetition and of personal routine tendency in developing habits. They are consistent with dual processing theory in finding that both reflective and habit processes predict adherence to TRBs. Action planning partly mediated the relation between reflective processes and adherence. The COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the testing and confirmation of several theoretical hypotheses about habit processes in the enactment of TRBs.
DOI Link: 10.1093/abm/kaad025
Rights: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact
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