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Cologne Talks

This speakers' series brings leading international experts on social cognition to the University of Cologne.

expand: CSCT_2023-01-09_RothermundK

An Episodic Retrieval Account of Habit Acquisition and Change

Klaus Rothermund | University Jena, Germany

January 9th, 2023 | 2 pm | Venue: Conference Room | Seminar Building-first floor

Abstract: A habit is an acquired regularity in responding automatically to a specific situation. Classical learning psychology (Thorndike, 1898; see also Hull, 1943) explains the emergence of habits by an extended learning history during which an abstract stimulus-response association is formed due to either reinforcement (“law of effect”) or practice (“law of exercise”). In contrast to these explanations, I will propose an alternative view of habit acquisition that draws on episodic memory models of automatic response retrieval. According to such an episodic retrieval account, habitual responding results from storing stimulus-response episodes in memory and retrieving these episodes when encountering the stimulus again. An important distinction within the episodic retrieval account regards the temporal distance between learning and testing: Across short time intervals, retrieval is driven more or less completely by the last episode in which the stimulus was shown (“law of recency”), whereas across a longer temporal distance, each of the previous episodes has a similar probability of winning the retrieval race (“law of frequency”). I will present data that establish episodic binding and retrieval as a major source of habitual behavior, and I will discuss the implications of this view for understanding and changing habitual behavior.

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