‘4’ Questions Which Prove Habits Can Be Acquired Unconsciously

  1. Can you change people’s belief by asking them to write an essay and give cigarette as a reward?


  1. Do context play a role in forming and sustaining habits?


  1. Do we have any control over our addictions like smoking, drinking or even excessive exercise?



  1. Do we unconsciously acquire habits?


Changing Beliefs with Cigarettes

To answer it; this is true and it happened, when Chinese were able to manipulate actions and thoughts of prisoners of war who in a state of sleep, food and smoke deprivation were asked to write essays.  The reward would be something trivial but important for the prisoners, like a cigarette or something to eat. The prisoners initially though did not show much enthusiasm as they refrained from writing anything good about them.  However, the Chinese started rewarding the prisoners randomly and even if you mildly criticize, there was still a shot at the reward.  Gradually, these POW (Prisoners of war), began taking essays seriously.  It reached an extent where even after they returned to their country, they still held onto some of their positive beliefs about the Chinese.  Psychologists attributed it to cognitive dissonance as they were finding it difficult to refute what they had written themselves bringing about a huge change in how they viewed China, which was in a much more positive light now compared to when were taken as prisoners and tortured.

Context and getting rid of addictions

The veterans of the Vietnam War proved the statements in second and the third question  Many of those soldiers were addicted to heroin while they were posted there for the war. The habits though magically vanished when they returned. A change of environment or context and social milieu affected their habits and routines in a subtle way leading to disappearance of an addiction. While in Vietnam, a constant exposure to people indulging in snorting and easy availability made them addicted to it and once deprived of the environment and company, the habits also died out.

Acquiring Habits Unconsciously

How many times have you bought a chocolate or a snack from the supermarket or a nearby store while checking out, even though you never planned to buy it?  Alternatively, how many times you ended up eating junk food even after promising yourself in the morning that you will only eat healthy today.  Perhaps many times and the first time it happens you just did it, without thinking much. However, the moment you ate that chocolate or snack or junk food, there was a surge of endorphins and dopamine in your brain.  These neurotransmitters released in our body act as a reward system and we always crave more of it, just like lab rat, constantly hitting the pedal to stimulate its nucleus accumbens (the reward centre of the brain) and get a high.  The reward make sure, we repeat the routine again and again, ultimately converting it into a habit, we unconsciously created.


The solution just one at this time for paucity of space, is to train ourselves to become mindful, to stay in the present, be cognizant of our actions, and avoid anything which is taking place without our conscious permission.

Will b adding onto it in the next post…

selective focus photography of man lighting cigarette

Photo by Kam Pratt on Pexels.com

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