Duhigg, an award-winning investigative reporter for the New York Times, has written a book about the science of how habits are formed that is interesting, informative and entertaining.
Beginning with a simple formula — cue, routine, reward — he takes us from the individual to organizations to societies to illustrate how complex the process of habit formation and change can be. In the appendix, Duhigg gives us what he calls “a framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting with how they might change.”
However, this is not really a self-help book in the traditional sense, and readers expecting it to be will be disappointed.
The first part of the book is devoted to how habits are formed: a cue for a particular behavior; the routine triggered by that cue; and the reward that results from that behavior. The more often this loop is repeated, the more automatic it becomes; and the more positive the reward, the stronger is the individual’s craving for that reward.
Science has determined that these habit loops actually change our brains by creating new neural pathways, and that, once created, they never really go away. They can only be changed by replacing the existing behavior that results from the cue with a different behavior. If the new behavior successfully provides a reward that satisfies the craving, the change is successful.
Particularly interesting is the way Duhigg uses the habit loop to describe and discuss various organizational and social habits, and how significant change has been affected by changing seemingly small behaviors. By focusing on worker safety, the new CEO of Alcoa was able to turn a faltering company around to become one of the top performing manufacturers on Wall Street. By refusing to move to the back of the bus, Rosa Parks sparked a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement. Duhigg deftly uses these and other stories to give depth and complexity to the seemingly simple habit loop.
We are also given a fascinating and somewhat alarming look into how companies exploit our habits to manipulate us into buying their products. Target may know more about you than you know about yourself!
1. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
2. “Angel’s Flight” by Michael Connelly
3. “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly
4. “One Door Away From Heaven” by Dean Koontz