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A habit (also custom , from the Latin uti "to use") is a mode of reaction developed under similar conditions, which has been stereotyped by repetition and is automatically carried out according to the same reaction scheme under similar situation conditions if it is not consciously avoided or suppressed. There are habits of feeling, thinking, and behavior.

In the German language, the word, which corresponds to both the Latin habitus and consuetudo , has been used since early New High German, as in Johannes Tauler and Paracelsus .

Philosophy of empiricism

David Hume and Condillac stress the importance of habit for the constitution of reality . Habit formation has a relief function; it relieves the individual of the necessity of constantly having to make new sensible considerations. So it compensates for deficits in reason.

Biological foundations

The development of habits, especially in the form of likes and dislikes , already show single-cell organisms that can be conditioned , i.e. have a memory that the observer can recognize. In humans, the ability to learn has expanded far beyond that to a pronounced and actively influenced ability to remember, which, however, only begins to show itself in the first signs in the fourth to fifth year of a person's life. Its designation as “ memory ” indicates that it is a prerequisite for all thinking , which as an activity can easily become mere habit.

Brain and behavioral research

Modern brain research assumes that in human development in the first decade of life, and in turn in the first half of it, there are particularly favorable neurobiological conditions for elementary learning processes, with the result that habits develop particularly easily and quickly in these years of life.

Strong or rigid thinking and behavioral habits can be detrimental to creativity and lead to a well-worn, more or less thoughtless reaction. In addition, habitual reactions require little attention because of its reflex action . Pronounced habitual reactions can therefore lead to a higher degree of selective attention and, moreover, to habitual inattention, which in turn further promotes habitual reactions.

In playful contexts or intentionally, so consciously learned, targeted especially at school and teaching practiced behaviors are against it (eg in. Like all useful habits native language to talk to ), even with the greatest routine as skills or - especially with larger skill here - also known as skill .

To be distinguished from a habit is the habituation or habituation . This means the phenomenon that an individual shows increasingly fewer or, in extreme cases, no more reactions to a repeatedly experienced stimulus . In such cases, one speaks of desensitization. It can also be used specifically in the form of systematic desensitization; in humans, however, it usually has to include conscious changes in attitudes.

Developing a new and positive habit is possible despite old habits, conveniences, and frustration. The recipe for success is the smallest activity or behavior. They are also known as mini-habits that demand so little from people that they like to do more.

Social component

If a significant number of members of a group show the same habit, this can become an unquestioned social custom or collective conviction . More elaborate customs , on the other hand, are shaped by the expectations of the community and consciously maintained, especially if they have to be practiced and are practiced on the same occasions as, for example, seasonal festivals at specific times or at specific times. Folklore has studied these aspects since Johann Gottfried Herder and Julius Möser . Max Weber coined the term “traditional action” for unreflective, unsystematic, not purposefully determined social habits. In this context, one speaks of rule rationality, i.e. an unreflective adherence to norms, the repeated and situation-dependent reflection of which would cause effort and expense.

Customary rights and duties are also based on joint action , which go back to agreements and mutual obligations that were maintained for a long time and which at first may only have been entered into by individuals and perhaps only ad hoc .


The expression of the "power of habit (s)", on the other hand, refers to the fact that doing or making on the basis of well-developed habits always comes about faster than conscious action, which is always more because of the considerations and decisions necessary to prepare it Time takes as a habitual reaction that occurs reflexively . Another idiom - “Man is an animal of habit” - gives a hint to the evolutionary roots of habit. Konrad Lorenz found out from observations of his goose Martina , among other things , that certain, even incidental behaviors, which are carried out even only by chance in a situation perceived as threatening, become a habit. Because evolutionary increases the probability of survival in similar situations. Against this evolutionary background, deviating from habits is associated with internal tensions .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: habit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Usus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Habit  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. HWPh Vol. 3, Basel 1974, Col. 598.
  2. So also Arnold Gehlen: Man. Berlin 1940, p. 52.
  3. ^ Max Weber: Economy and Society. 5th edition 1976, p. 12.