The Power of Habit

Extracted 27FEB2012 from

The 19th century psychologist William James observed, "All our life ... is but a mass of habits."

Ad men in the 20th century took this aphorism to heart. It wasn't enough to simply sell a product; the goal was to hook consumers and keep them coming back.

In his new book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg, a business reporter for The New York Times, explains how some companies have achieved enormous success by altering people's habits. By luck or design, they've been tapping into a powerful psychological pattern: the "habit loop."

[This is a good story but it teeters on the brink of vapid stimulus-response psychology which is based mostly on and pointedly applicable to conditioning in non-human animals. Nevertheless, the Jamesean consideration of "habit" is one that is pregnant with possibilities. The key is to consider motivations and "rewards" that are relevant only to human beings. These considerations include inspiration, meaningful existence, responsible engagement, and accountability for consequences. These are the sources of the latent and growing "demand" of social-web consumers that has the enduring profundity of an "existential lack."]