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Clinical Trial Summary

Habits impact nearly every domain of one's physical and mental health. Evidence-based psychological treatments (EBPTs) are interventions targeting psychological processes that cause and/or maintain mental illness and that have been developed and evaluated scientifically. An implicit goal of EBPTs is to disrupt unwanted habits and develop desired habits. Yet, there has been insufficient attention given to habit formation principles, theory and measures in the development and delivery of EBTPs. In preparing to conduct a 5-year R01 on this topic, the investigators are conducting this experiment to better understand habit formation. The purpose is to distill, study and clarify key concepts in habit formation before embarking on the 5-year R01. This is necessary as there is surprisingly little research to guide key decisions, particularly for the process of dismantling unwanted habits. Hence, the aim of this experiment is to compare strategies discussed in the scientific literature, which have been minimally studied, to dismantle unwanted habits. The hypothesis tested is that each of the active strategies will be superior to the no intervention group. The study is exploratory as to which of the active strategies will be most effective.

Clinical Trial Description

The investigators motivation for considering a deeper application of the science of habit formation within clinical psychological science is that many researchers and clinicians consider the process of habit formation to be a "passive phenomenon," or "a 'natural' outcome of the behavior change process" rather than a process that can be specifically planned for and guided. In contrast, there are clear principles and strategies that the investigators can draw from, adapt and infuse into existing EBPTs to more intentionally incorporate the science of habit formation. Therefore, the investigators propose the study of habits is an important, fertile, creative and fascinating domain for future research. To date, no prior research has been conducted on the disruption of habits. Hence, there is a great need for more naturalistic studies to delineate the contributors to knowledge about the multiple complex "real-life" habits that are tackled in EBPTs. The theoretical grounding is drawn from health psychology, due to its conceptual proximity to clinical psychological science. In the health psychology literature, habit formation is understood to be a learned process whereby a behavior (the desired habit) becomes paired with a stable context cue and, via repetition, come to trigger an automatic impulse to engage in the habit. Repetition reinforces the behavior-context association. Reinforcement motivates and strengthens repetition. With ongoing repetition, the stable context cue becomes sufficient to activate the association. In other words, the context triggers the impulse to perform the behavior, with minimal cognitive effort or intention and the habit has become more automated and less reliant on one's goals. Participants will be workers recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online labor marketplace that is also used as a recruitment platform for web-based studies, and which has a demonstrated reliability for producing high-quality research. The investigators aim to recruit 462 eligible participants. A listing describing the proposed research will be posted to MTurk, where participants will be able to review the tasks involved in the study and compare the study to other opportunities on MTurk. Participants will complete the pre-screening assessment. Eligible participants will be invited to complete the baseline session, which includes the pre-assessment, online learning module, and immediate post-assessment. Participants will be randomly allocated to one of the following experimental conditions immediately upon completing the online learning module. For each condition, participants will be instructed to identify a cue and reward/reinforcement for engaging in the new strategy. One week after each condition is presented, the participant will be reminded of the instructions and will complete an assessment. Thereafter, at weekly intervals, participants will re-complete the assessments for another 4 weeks (i.e., each condition runs for 6 weeks). At 6-weeks and 3-months after the last assessment, the participants will re-complete the assessments. ;

Study Design

Related Conditions & MeSH terms

NCT number NCT05070143
Study type Interventional
Source University of California, Berkeley
Contact Sondra Tiab, B.A.
Phone 405-532-2583
Email [email protected]
Status Recruiting
Phase N/A
Start date October 7, 2021
Completion date January 14, 2022

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