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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: November 2020

2 - Habits and Self

from Part 1 - The Sensorimotor Embodiment of Habits


We are creature of habits. This suggests an intimate relationship of self and habits. Our self provides temporal stability and continuity in a changing environment full of contingencies. Such temporal continuity is manifest in our action and, more specifically a particular subset of action, that is, habitual action or habits, as distinguished from goal-directed action. Habits can be characterized by repetitive behavior that provides temporal continuity in temporally discontinuous environmental contexts. The origin and mechanisms of temporal continuity in habits, including its relationship to the self, remain unclear though. Based on various data, we assume that the temporal continuity of self, that is, self-continuity, provides the template for the temporal continuity of habits on behavioral, psychological and neuronal levels. Specifically, we assume that temporal integration of the temporally disparate stimuli related to intention, execution and outcome of action are lumped and integrated together into one temporal unit during their processing – this results in habits. Neuronally, the data from both self and habits suggests that temporal continuity, as measured by the autocorrelation window, may be mediated by the strong power in the slower frequencies in anterior cortical regions like orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Owing to their long phase cycles, the slow frequencies are ideal for integrating and thus pooling different stimuli across time. In conclusion, we here assume an intimate relationship of self and habits in terms of temporal continuity and integration on behavioral, psychological and neuronal grounds.

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