Habit and identity: Behavioral, cognitive, affective, and motivational facets of an integrated self

Bas Verplanken* (Corresponding Author), Jie Sui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Two studies investigated associations between habits and identity, in particular what people consider as their 'true self'. Habit-identity associations were assessed by within-participant correlations between self-reported habit and associated true self ratings of 80 behaviors. The behaviors were instantiations of 10 basic values. In Study 1, significant correlations were observed between individual differences in the strength of habit-identity associations, measures of cognitive self-integration (prioritizing self-relevant information), self-esteem, and an orientation toward an ideal self. Study 2 further tested the assumption that habits are associated with identity if these relate to important goals or values. An experimental manipulation of value affirmation demonstrated that, compared to a control condition, habit-identity associations were stronger if participants explicitly generated the habit and true self ratings while indicating which values the behaviors would serve. Taken together, the results suggest that habits may serve to define who we are, in particular when these are considered in the context of self-related goals or central values. When habits relate to feelings of identity this comes with stronger cognitive self-integration, higher self-esteem, and a striving toward an ideal self. Linking habits to identity may sustain newly formed behaviors and may thus lead to more effective behavior change interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1504
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Early online date13 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Anna Gladwin, Viknesh Jeevachandran, and Imogen Ormston for their contributions to programming and data collection and Eve Legrand and Greg Maio for their insightful comments.


  • habit
  • identity
  • integrated self
  • true self
  • self esteem
  • self-regulatory focus
  • value affirmation


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