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Open Access Methodology

Towards parsimony in habit measurement: Testing the convergent and predictive validity of an automaticity subscale of the Self-Report Habit Index

Benjamin Gardner1*, Charles Abraham2, Phillippa Lally1 and Gert-Jan de Bruijn3

Author Affiliations

1 Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

2 Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Exeter, St. Luke’s Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK

3 Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:102  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-102

Published: 30 August 2012

Abstract

Background

The twelve-item Self-Report Habit Index (SRHI) is the most popular measure of energy-balance related habits. This measure characterises habit by automatic activation, behavioural frequency, and relevance to self-identity. Previous empirical research suggests that the SRHI may be abbreviated with no losses in reliability or predictive utility. Drawing on recent theorising suggesting that automaticity is the ‘active ingredient’ of habit-behaviour relationships, we tested whether an automaticity-specific SRHI subscale could capture habit-based behaviour patterns in self-report data.

Methods

A content validity task was undertaken to identify a subset of automaticity indicators within the SRHI. The reliability, convergent validity and predictive validity of the automaticity item subset was subsequently tested in secondary analyses of all previous SRHI applications, identified via systematic review, and in primary analyses of four raw datasets relating to energy‐balance relevant behaviours (inactive travel, active travel, snacking, and alcohol consumption).

Results

A four-item automaticity subscale (the ‘Self-Report Behavioural Automaticity Index’; ‘SRBAI’) was found to be reliable and sensitive to two hypothesised effects of habit on behaviour: a habit-behaviour correlation, and a moderating effect of habit on the intention-behaviour relationship.

Conclusion

The SRBAI offers a parsimonious measure that adequately captures habitual behaviour patterns. The SRBAI may be of particular utility in predicting future behaviour and in studies tracking habit formation or disruption.

Keywords:
Habit; Automaticity; Self-report; Measurement; Energy‐balance related behaviours