The Integrative Character of Habits

Jacob Robert Kantor
University of Indiana

Among the indications that psychology is making headway in the understanding and solution of some of its intriguing but no less difficult problems stands prominently the fact that the psychologist is broadening his perspective and withdrawing from the narrowness which the physiological ancestry of psychology has bequeathed to him. Signs multiply that psychologists are beginning to admit into their purview many of the larger forms of psychological phenomena which we may designate as social reactions, and what is equally important they are taking a keener interest in the larger and more complex individual reactions that are usually spoken of under the heading of abnormal and pathological behavior. In general, we might say that psychology is opening its doors to broader and perhaps more significant problems and is no longer circumscribing its activities by physiological boundaries which limited its studies almost wholly to sensory reactions.

One of the most striking facts correlated with this enlarging attitude of psychologists appears to the writer to be the growing appreciation of the place stimuli take in the operation of psychological phenomena. And by stimuli we must mean here actual objects and conditions with which are integrated both our simple and complex reactions. For only when we eschew the traditional fallacy that the stimuli to our actions are merely light rays or sound waves can we hope to understand the complex interactions of the psychological organism with its surrounding objects. Now when we look upon psychological phenomena as co÷rdinations of responses and stimuli the domain of psychological observation is unlimited; we may study any kind of reaction of the person whether it be simple or complex, physical, social, aesthetic or

(196) intellectual, whether it be normal or pathologic. Standing upon I this kind of platform we may hope to study the psychological process of, say, reasoning as an actual response to social and cultural situations and not be content with repeating the fruitless abstractions of what is supposed to be logic. And to mention another illustration, when we look upon psychological phenomena as responses to actual stimuli we can then study such constant phenomena as sleep and dreams with some hope of understanding them instead of throwing them out of the domain of psychology as abnormal. Also, language need no longer stand as an unwelcome stranger at the gates of psychology but may be admitted into its domain as genuine data capable of being analyzed and interpreted. In short, we may say that a concrete study of stimulating conditions as phases of such phenomena must rob of its sting the accusation made against the psychologist that he does not consider himself a scientist until he has destroyed the living, pulsating and striving thing that is man.

More especially are we interested at present in pointing out the advantage to psychology of including the stimuli when we are trying to understand the type of behavior we have learned to know as habits. Consider for a moment what the traditional physiological psychology has done with habits. In the first place, because psychological phenomena are presumed to be the mere operation of physiological structures, habit responses are believed to comprise only a few overt actions. ' Secondly, these habits are thought of as governed or made to operate in some manner by so-called lower brain centers which have no part in the acquisition of the reactions but take over the "control" from the higher brain centers, which operated during the formation of the habits. Contrariwise, when we consider habits to be the reactions of a person to definite objects and conditions about him we can not limit them merely to simple overt responses but must take account of all the varieties of habit responses which we can observe ourselves to have, besides understanding the conditions under which they are formed and the manner in which they operate after we acquire them.


Howsoever humiliating it may be to the technical psychologist it is still true that much of the impetus responsible for the growing appreciation of the place of stimuli in psychological phenomena has been derived from the study and the interpretations of the psychopathologists. They it was who, working with persons whose behavior was conditioned by some untoward condition in the surroundings, had to take account of those surroundings in their endeavor to improve the behavior of the abnormal individual. As a record of fact, the unbiased studies of the psychopathologists yield us much information concerning the complexity of our physical and social stimuli.

But when we accord the psychopathologist his full need of credit for bringing to our attention the role of stimuli in the operation of our reactions let us observe that we do not thereby in the least detract from the value of the technical psychologist's work in this direction. For this emphasis upon the role of stimuli in psychological phenomena is to a great extent the outcome of the psychologist's changing attitude toward the character of psychological data.

To say the least, it is being more and more appreciated that psychological reactions are not merely psychical elements, or in the case of habits merely the organization of neural elements (the earthly surrogates of psychic states) but rather that all actions are complex operations of persons. This objective interpretation of psychological phenomena forces us to correlate the individual's responses with other facts connected with them. Thus, we find that the observations of psychologists themselves have led to the view that stimuli conditions are important in the study of human behavior, and this recognition is entirely in addition to the intellectual support of this view derived from the work of the psychopathologists. To the writer this dual origin of our interest in the stimulating circumstances of behavior seems most significant because it lends support to the correctness of the view that such circumstances cannot be omitted from an accurate study of our actions.

And now we come to the purpose of this paper. It is, namely, an attempt to interpret habit responses in such a way that we

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(200) reactions into habits do we not unduly efface the difference between our reactions and make of habit merely a term to stand for the fact that reactions are acquired? Twofold is our objection to such a view. In the first place, it involves a radically false assumption concerning the inheritance of actions, and in the second place, it overlooks the fact that habit reactions are definite and specific forms of reaction systems, that is to say habits constitute a particular group of reactions. If we care at all to trace the source of this mistaken identification of all acquired behavior as habit responses we may find it in the acknowledged fact that habit reactions do not, as some of our simpler reactions do, involve a very close dependence upon the organic constitution of the individual. This source, rooted in fact as it may be, does not in the least provide an adequate justification for the attitude that all responses called acquired are habits.

Another reason we may discover for the contention that all acquired responses answer to the same description as habits is that the acquisition of habit responses does undoubtedly presuppose a fair amount of behavior equipment already possessed by the person. But this indubitable fact in no wise means or implies that the reactions comprising that already possessed equipment are not themselves entirely or mainly acquired. It is this latter case that we take to be' the fact, and we need only add that this already possessed equipment may consist of habits as well as of many other kinds of reaction systems.

Very important is the characteristic of habit responses which may best be described as that of the practically non-transformation of the stimulating objects and circumstances. Let us recall again that the significant feature of the entire habit situation is the interconnection of a response and a stimulus; so it is not surprising that aside from the case in which the stimulus is an endogenous reflex of the individual no change or increase in the object or other stimulating situation occurs either when the habit is built up or when it operates later.

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Habit reactions have their basis primarily in two fundamental characteristics of psychological phenomena, namely, (1) differentiation and (2) integration of behavior.

1. Differentiation of behavior means that every psychological act consists of a differential response of the organism to some specific object or other stimulus factor. Essentially, the point is that no psychological fact can be thought of as consisting exclusively of the reaction phases of adjustments but must always include also the stimulus factor. The actual unit of psychological phenomena, in other words, consists of a definite response and a stimulus. This means that the psychological individual builds up specific responses to concrete stimuli which operate when those stimuli are presented, unless the response is delayed or inhibited. Now habit responses represent an intensive form of such differential connections between responses and stimuli. Intensive connection we say because there is in the habit situation not only this connection between a response and a stimulus but a practically fatalistic operation of the response when the stimulus is presented. Possibly it is not inappropriate to suggest that the acquisition of habit responses is equivalent to a minimization of the chances for inhibition and delay of the responses in the presence of their co÷rdinated stimuli.

2. The second psychological condition in which habits are rooted is the property of integration by which is meant the morphological organization of reaction systems of which the product is a more complex and adaptable reaction unit. In two ways is the condition of integration operative in the habit situation. First, directly in the organization of more complex reaction systems from simpler ones, a process which is of no slight importance in the development of habit responses, since the integration of responses with stimuli frequently involves considerable development and expansion of reaction systems. Especially noticeable is this situation in the organization of typewriting, swimming, and other primarily manual activities. In the second place, the integration process is of great importance in habit

( 202) formation in an indirect way, namely, as a prominent process in psychological association. Now one of the primary forms of psychological association consists in the process whereby responses are connected with stimuli, and some forms of these associational connections we may well call habits.

In detail, the habit forms of association are such close associations of response patterns and stimuli that not only' are the various member reaction systems integrated into a unit, but this pattern as a unit of response appears also to be very closely integrated with the stimulus, so that the whole behavior fact becomes an indivisible unitary process. Upon the closeness of this integration of the members of the behavior pattern, and the whole pattern with the stimulus can we differentiate between degree classes of habits, the limiting point being such a loose connection that the segment of behavior can no longer be called a habit action. And thus one of the incidental results derived from our study of the psychological basis of habit responses is a touchstone by which to distinguish habit behavior segments from other types. This characterization of habit behavior segments we shall discuss in the next two sections.


According to the typical description of habit reactions, they are in terms of behavior segments, simple final responses to stimuli; in fact they are discussed much in the fashion of reflexes, excepting of course that the former are always assumed to be acquired. Just why habit actions should be aligned with reflexes is found in the traditional psychological belief that habit actions when acquired involve few or no mental factors but are the operation of various organizations of muscular apparatus. Connected with this belief and possibly as a result of it the view has flourished that habits are exclusively manual actions of various sorts. In consequence, psychologists following James undertook at one stroke to describe and account for habits in terms of neural connections much as they did in the case of reflexes, with this difference, of course, that in the case of habits the neural connections were pre-

( 203) -sumed to be located in the so-called higher and lower centers of the brain instead of in the spinal cord. Now we on the contrary unhesitatingly believe that such a method of describing habit action is contrary to the actual facts, resulting as it does in an unwarranted abridgment of the classes of habits, and worse, it leads to an inadequate description of any type of individual habit act. Accordingly, we propose in the present section to examine the typical habit behavior segments in their response phases, reserving for a later section the study of the stimuli factors.

When we examine a habit behavior segment it goes without saying that whatever we may mean by conscious or mental factors they cannot be lacking in habit reactions for such reactions are very definitely differential responses to specific stimuli. And this differential process we assume to cover the part of consciousness or awareness.[2] Moreover, in considering the details of behavior segments in the case of habits on the response side they comprise a great variety of reaction patterns differing in morphological character and in degree of complexity. Now since every response pattern involves both precurrent and final reaction systems it cannot be true that habits are exclusively final or motor adjustments. How this error is made may be easily accounted for by the fact that since the habit behavior segment represents so intricately organized a response to a stimulus the precurrent phases may be easily overlooked. Certain it is, nevertheless, that habit responses may and frequently do involve the operation of a very elaborate pattern of precurrent activities before the final response occurs. Possibly this situation is very well illustrated by language activities in which the unit of response is a pattern (sentence) of which the last element (word) only may be considered as the final response.

Credence is lent the view that habit actions are simple final responses by the fact that the precurrent attention reaction is functionally very simple. Instead of being a definite autonomous reaction system as is the case in volitional or voluntary

( 204) actions, in habits the reaction system is much abbreviated morphologically and slighter functionally. All this is to be expected in a behavior segment in which the whole response factor is very definitely integrated with the stimulating conditions. Functionally speaking the attention factor in a habit segment operates, in the overt reactions at least, merely to bring the person in contact with a new stimulus mainly by a shift in postural attitude. In the larger types of habit action the attention factor is of a more complex sort but always simpler than in a correspondingly complex behavior segment of another type of psychological activity. But however limited the attention reaction may be in habits it is undeniably present and adds to the complexity of the total behavior segment.

What is true of the attention precurrent reaction is equally true of the perceptual or ideational precurrent reaction systems. They also are very intimately integrated with the attention factor and the final reaction as well as with the stimulus object or situation. Because of this integration of response factors with the stimulus any very deliberate cognitive action appears unessential, a fact which has lent support to the view we have mentioned, concerning the absence of mental factors in habit responses. Patently, the presence of the perceptual and ideational reaction systems, howsoever fused they may be with the other members of the response pattern, adds to the intricacy of the habit situation precisely as the inclusion of the attention factors.

To the complexity of habit behavior segments there is in fact no end. Possibly it is in part at least owing to this intricacy of habit responses that psychological literature is so replete with discussions concerning subconscious phenomena. For it is indubitable that habit integrations among other psychological phenomena, make it possible for us to do so many and such different actions without any apparent interest in or awareness of those actions at the moment. Is it not such activities as these that we characterize as subconscious phenomena? Clearly such phenomena are no more mysterious than the fact that the person who is in constant or frequent contact with particular complex stimuli can build up an elaborate equipment of habit reactions,

( 205) which becoming organized as part of his personality, can later operate without knowledge or direction on the part of the person.

Possibly we can make the most striking observations of the operation of a person's complex habit responses when his behavior is so exaggerated as to amount almost to dissociation. Then the operation of habit reactions seems truly remarkable upon the surface. And so it was in connection with abnormal individuals that the doctrine of the subconscious was primarily developed and most extensively fostered. An added feature that made possible the interpretation of complex habit responses as some mysterious "subconscious" was that such responses need not necessarily be cognitively acquired. That is to say, we may organize these complex habits without in the least knowing at the time that such an acquisitional process is going on.

Not our purpose is it now to attempt to establish an identical relationship-between complex habit responses and what may legitimately be called subconscious action, for in the first place, such a direct and complete identification does not in fact exist, since subconscious behavior involves much more than habits and in the second place, we have another aim. We are rather interested in pointing out by our references to the so-called subconscious and unconscious activities the enormous complexity attained by the habit behavior segments, and may we mention again that the inevitable implication of this complexity is that habit responses must be looked upon both as precurrent and as final responses.


No better analysis can be made of a generalized habit behavior segment than by comparing it with a reflex segment, since the simple habits of a manual sort, consisting as they do of simple automatized responses greatly resemble the reflexes.

Outstanding as a difference between reflexes and habits is the relative prominence of the response and the stimuli factors in the organization and operation of the behavior segments. In the case of reflexes the action depends almost entirely for its forma-

( 206)-tion and operation upon the biological character of the person. In other words, reflexes are very intimately related to the individual's organic structure and functions. The emphasis is on the organism's adaptational need, but these needs are more or less independent of the specific surrounding conditions. As a corollary to this fact of the dependence of reflexes upon organic conditions we find that the reflex segments on the response side consist of only single reaction systems and never patterns of response.

Now in contrast with reflex segments, habit acts are developed more prominently as adjustments to definite external circumstances and in consequence the responses are more conditioned in their genesis by the needs and exigencies of the stimulating surroundings. When we assert that habit responses depend more definitely upon external conditions we mean to confine our statement to the narrow limits of the immediate stimulus-response situation. For it is clear that the auspices of any behavior development must include many elements which are not specifically stimulus conditions, such as organic or more remote economic conditions, etc., all of which intimately concern the individual irrespective of what his surroundings may be. To take a concrete example, the acquisition of typewriting skill responses may be originally and primarily induced by economic pressure and certainly not by the machine, but note that the specific reaction systems are intimately determined by and bound up with the copy and machine stimuli. In plainer words, habit behavior depends more upon the stimuli conditions than upon the structure of the person, although the latter element must always be an essential factor in the formation and operation of all behavior. This fact, by the way, is only slightly less true of thought habits than of comparatively simple skill reactions.

But just because habit responses depend more for their development and operation upon stimulating situations they are more complex and involve more than one reaction system. And these many reaction systems are naturally precurrent attention and cognition reactions.

In point of fact and in complete consonance with our analysis in the preceding section we may locate the salient features of

( 207) habit responses in the precurrent reaction systems which we, may call the cognitive factors. According to our view the sole cognitive fact in a reflex lies in the differential character of the simple reaction system constituting the entire response phase of a reflex behavior segment. Now this of course is the simplest type of cognitive phenomenon in the entire domain of psychological facts. Now in the case of habits a much more complicated cognitive situation is present; here the cognitive factor is represented by the operation of a definitely morphologically autonomous reaction system, the function of which appears to be to mediate between some specific stimulus and some particular final reaction. This cognitive precurrent reaction system may be merely a perceptual reaction or it may be an implicit meaning reaction. The former kind would be found in the simpler habit segments while the latter may be the precurrent components of the more complex habits.

Our hypothesis that habit acts are primarily integrations of responses with stimuli suggests that the precurrent cognitive reaction systems of the habit segment are perceptions or meanings directed only toward the stimulating objects or circumstances which do not anticipate the final action which follows or the results or consequence of the response, although of course the precurrent reaction is always in some way connected with a final response. Let us observe that the question whether there is or is not a precurrent reaction system in the behavior segment and the problem as to whether the precurrent responses refer to the stimulus or the act or both, give us the varying degrees of cognition. When the organism has the precurrent reaction system integrated very closely with the stimulus, as is the case in habit, then we have a comparatively simple cognition involved. What we have here is a process of double association or integration; on the one hand, there is the integration of the precurrent reaction with the stimulus and on the other just as definite an integration of the same precurrent reaction with the final reaction. For instance, the stimulus for the typist is his copy, his perception of the words before him the precurrent reaction, which directed only toward the stimulus is, however, intimately integrated

( 208) with the final reaction, or the striking of the typewriter key in our illustration.

In behavior which is more complex than habit reactions the integration of precurrent reaction and stimulus is not so binding and the connection between precurrent and final may be such that the person may also perceive the final act; then. the precurrent act may be called preparatory. In such a case the activity is described as containing or involving much more or higher awareness. When the precurrent reactions are relatively free in the behavior segment and this would almost inevitably mean that it is an ideational process, free, that is in the sense that the person can anticipate the final act and look forward to it and modify it, then we have what is almost the complete antithesis to a habit response. This would be true even if there be no control or modification of the final act but merely its anticipation or possibly a silent self-remark about it, a questioning whether it should be done or how. This complex type of behavior appears all the more antithetical to habits when we observe that in many cases of habit segments the precurrent or preparatory reaction may be a single overt response; for in such a case we will find that the segment includes the least awareness, excepting such segments which contain only a single reaction system, that is to say, no precurrent or preparatory act. In a genuine sense, therefore, habit responses are actions standing midway between the reflex type of action and the various orders of volitional response.


Because habits cover such a large range of our behavior equipment and because they are specific integrations of responses with stimuli we will find that as a record of fact the stimuli phases include a large block of our surrounding objects and conditions. Among these multitudinous stimuli we must include persons, things of all sorts, as well as actions and institutions, besides physical, social and cultural conditions of every description.

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Naturally, habit responses to physical things constitute a large part of our simpler automatized responses and there is a definite correlation between the increasing complexity of such physical objects and the complexity of the habit reactions that are integrated with them. For instance, the habit responses built up in contact with an automobile or more complex mechanical object are indefinitely more complicated than the habits organized through contact with simpler physical things. And we acquire through various combinations of stimuli our complex skill habits which. we will later call achievements and accomplishments. To play the piano we must integrate responses of musical information and piano key manipulations with the music and piano stimuli. Similarly, in typewriting the integration process involves the organization of movements responsive both to the machine and to the copy.

Exceedingly prominent as stimuli for habit responses are actions of the person himself and of others. As such the actions of the individual may be divided into two classes; the first being the organic reflexes of various sorts which directly and exclusively stimulate various simple autonomic habit responses as well as serve in the capacity of auxiliary stimuli to the person's acquisition of complex habits of thought and feeling. Illustrative of the simple habit reactions integrated with organic actions are the mannerisms of walking, facial gesturing, bodily carriage, mode of hand shaking, and speech mannerisms. Among the individual's more complex habit responses those partially integrated with organic actions are such as traits of thought and feeling, particularly characterizing one's outlook upon life, as pessimistic, optimistic, melancholy, etc. In the second class of actions stimulating habit responses we may place all the other responses, overt muscular acts, speech responses or implicit behavior, any one of which may be intimately connected with some other action as its response. Doubtless the best examples of the operation of responses as stimuli to habits will be found in the various combinations of our language habit reactions.

Besides simple and complex objects of various sorts, events and conditions induce us to acquire many habit acts which on the

( 210) whole are not only more complex than the habits stimulated by objects but are also somewhat more indefinite and general in organization. Consider the difference between an automatized manual act and a response of verbal or general gesture of social politeness.

Complex events and institutions such as economic conditions and political happenings constitute a common variety of habit stimuli and of course the habit acts integrated with such stimuli may be expected to be very intricate. Here our habit reactions partake a good deal of social custom, that is acts determined by social usage and convention. Because the stimuli in the present class are more indefinite in their description and appear extremely vague we may be pardoned the impression that at least some habits are general forms of reaction and not specific response types. The more we consider the specific fact of integration as the principle of habit behavior, however, the less plausible appears this surface impression concerning the generality of habits.

Very incomplete would be our attempt to mention some of the outstanding forms of our habit stimuli if we left out of our enumeration the personal ideals and other individualistic institutions which are integrated with definite complex social, economic and aesthetic habit responses. Possibly the least ambiguous illustrations of such stimuli can be found in the domain of our habitual moral and aesthetic conduct, which if examined carefully we find to be definitely integrated with personal stimuli, whether operating alone or in conjunction with other stimuli forms.

The intricate organization found among our stimuli situations offers us considerable insight into the complexity of some of our habit responses. To take for instance the various physical and social objects and conditions affecting such a pervasive and common action as our conduct at the dinner table. The specific phases of our dining behavior are connected not only with the food, service, and other persons dining, but also with social, moral and economic customs and conventions in confusing array. Manifestly is the situation magnified and intensified when we consider those stimuli integrated with still more complex actions than eating.

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Besides the connection of habits with many stimuli objects and conditions, habit responses are also very closely linked up with the settings of stimuli. Particularly noticeable is this fact; in connection with social habit responses. In such activities the person's actions, though operating very directly through the influence of their integrated stimuli, do not render him insensitive to change in the specific stimuli settings among which the reactions take place. By the stimuli settings we mean to refer of course to objects, persons, moral, social and esthetic circumstances; in fact, everything that is or can be a stimulus can also be the setting or background for a stimulus. When we consider the infinite possibilities of combination of stimuli and settings we achieve much information concerning the correlational facts which may or may not be considered as causes for the enormously intricate habitual equipment of a highly organized personality.


If habit behavior is primarily characterized by the fact that it consists of responses very closely integrated with stimuli it follows then that because of the great variety of stimuli with which we are in contact the number of different classes of habit reactions will be very large. As opposed to the psychological tradition to which we have referred, namely, that habit reactions consist only of the comparatively simple overt acts, exemplified by swimming, walking or typewriting, we propose the hypothesis that our habit reactions comprise acts of the most diverse classes and individual description, acts which are stimulated by the most divergent forms of objects and conditions. An investigation of our behavior equipment reveals immediately that we have habits of feeling and of thought as well as of motor skill. Furthermore, be it observed that the terms motor skill, thought and feeling are conventional rubrics based upon the traditional conception of the tripartite division of what was presumed to be the subject matter of psychology, namely, consciousness. What we are eager to point out here, therefore, is that a valid appreciation of the actual types and descriptions of our habit equipment must be

(212) based upon an actual study of our responses. This means to say that to seek for the concrete reactions in our behavior equipment representing close and specific integration of stimuli and responses would reveal a large catalogue of habit types. Indeed it is to a large extent true that our complex habit responses constitute a good portion of the behavior equipment of our mature personalities.

Unfortunately for the student who desires to classify habit responses, the fact just mentioned, namely, that habits are pervasive and common forms of our behavior equipment, and that they are specific forms of adaptational adjustments, provides almost insurmountable difficulties. How can we bring order into such a host of divergent behavior data? That such an arrangement can only be accomplished by utilizing a series of different criteria is almost obvious, and so whatever organization is made of the habit facts will have to be made at the expense of a rigid logical scheme. As a matter of fact, our classification will be made on the basis partly of the stimulating situation and partly on the morphologic organization of the responses, and partly upon the place the responses take in the behavior equipment of the individual, although, because of an obvious expediency, the most striking and comprehensive basis of organization will be of course the stimuli situations forming parts of the habit behavior segments. Again, we must note that the names we employ for the classification of our habit responses should not be taken as in any sense exclusively belonging to the habit reactions. That is to say, when we mention sentiment as an example of feeling habit we must immediately point out that the name sentiment does not refer exclusively to habit actions but may be just as appropriately applied to numerous other forms of responses. Especially must we guard against the uncritical acceptance of a popular conventional term as a substitute for an analytical psychological category.

But if we attempt to classify habit responses upon the stimulus basis we must almost inevitably duplicate the discussion of the preceding section, inevitably because of the extreme integration of stimuli and responses in habit segments and because the

( 213) enumeration and description of habit responses can frequently be made only in terms of the stimuli auspices under which they occur. However unsatisfactory our classifactory procedure may be we have no option but to proceed in this manner and for our present purposes we may adopt a three fold classification of stimuli, dividing them into our (1) physical surroundings, (2) social surroundings and (3) personal stimuli, namely, personally formulated ideals and other institutions. Such a division must appear extremely inadequate and arbitrary, but since in the present section we are primarily interested in the responses such a classification will appeal to us only and precisely in the measure in which it is found useful for our immediate purposes.

1. Habits integrated with physical or natural stimuli

Here we may illustrate our point with a series of sample acts as follows.

a. Among the simplest habit responses in this class are the so-called manual acts exclusively denominated habit by the older psychologists. The examples usually given are the swimming acts, telegraphy, dancing reactions, typewriting, walking, writing, and other overt formal responses of a practically mechanical sort. In general we may add to this classification numerous other abilities of the person consisting of specific reaction systems, which, being so integrated with a particular physical stimulus, operate immediately when that stimulus appears. Here we may name the components of such reactions as cooking, and craftsmanship of various sorts.

b. Prominent among habit responses integrated with physical or natural stimuli are the aversions and preferences which give so marked a character to our personality. We might mention here the aversions toward the objects or persons of certain qualtities, sizes, and shapes toward animals of various morphological descriptions or harmfulness, and the preferences we acquire toward objects, persons and conditions. Also, we might include here various likes and dislikes which of course are generally more complex responses to things and persons than mere preferences.

( 214) From the morphological standpoint the responses under this division may be considered as involving more the feeling qualities of tastes than the effective attributes of skill responses.

c. Another series of habit responses integrated with physical and natural stimuli we may refer to as capacities of many sorts, adding, multiplying, distance judging, and accomplishments such as reactions of painting, drawing, and the manipulation of musical instruments. Our criterion for differentiating these behavior segments from more complex ones in class (a) is the greater indefiniteness of the habits now under discussion, the greater difficulty in formulating a morphological description of them and the generally more important function they perform in the daily activities of the person.

d. Probably the most striking if not the most familiar of our behavior to physical and natural stimuli are our various attitudes toward and beliefs about them. More or less intangible and indefinite are the attitudes towards the relationships of things themselves. Such habits of thought and opinion may very frequently be most appropriately named superstitions. But this does not exclude the presence in the individual's behavior equipment of numerous other attitudinal types. The main point here is that the stimuli mentioned are the immediate incentives for the arousal of informational, economic, social and aesthetic responses, responses which in many cases precede or are accompanied by overt acts. When this happens the mechanism appears to be this, namely that the habit responses, or the habit responses coupled with their appropriate stimuli, serve together as the stimuli for the accompanying or correlated overt responses. For some individuals the appearance of lightning is the stimulus for some superstitious notion which in turn becomes the stimulus for the performance of some rite if it be only the seeking of seclusion and shelter.

2. Habits integrated with social and intellectual stimuli

a. Many of our habit responses to social stimuli are of the same morphological character as those responsive to physical stimuli.

( 215) We need only suggest some concrete examples. When we speak of an individual as having industrious habits we must plainly include in such a statement direct overt acts. Similarly, to speak of a careful speaker means to pass judgment upon the person's direct overt language responses. Why it is that we have identical habit responses integrated with both physical and social stimuli is transparent when we recall that the same physical objects can serve as physical and social stimuli.

b. While it is obviously true that overt habit responses of the sort usually described as motor reactions may be connected with social as well as with physical stimuli, still it is clear that for the most part habit responses to social stimuli will be of a less direct and overt type. Many types of social habit responses there are which because of their unfocused character and extension in time are usually thought of not as adaptation acts but as qualities of the person. To illustrate, we believe that an act of politeness involves a pattern of habit reaction in precisely the same sense as a typewriting act but because of the general character of the social situation we usually fail to note the unitary character of the response pattern. Of a certainty when we locate the politeness habit in the specific act of tipping the hat or in bowing we have a case of social habit which is in no wise different from the overt habit response to physical stimuli, but we would indeed find it unprofitable so to restrict the politeness behavior segment. We conclude, then, that the classification of social habit responses must comprise less tangible responses of a definitely adaptive sort than those we find in the overt reactions. Now although we cannot give specific detailed account of the social habit responses we may in lieu of such definite description refer to some of the categories which our language has developed for suggestions concerning some of the social habit reactions, and perhaps also for some insight into the nature of the latter. Let us specify as social habit behavior social mannerisms, politeness, sincerity, suavity, encouraging, deprecatory, appreciatory, dissenting, dissembling, mercenary, artistic, efficient, exact, conforming reactions, etc. Without attempting to specify precise stimuli for each case, the categories of which would be of infinite length,

( 215) we might point out that a differentiation of the members of this class of habits could be made by considering that the stimuli include things, persons, institutions and conditions of every variety. Efficiency and industry habits would be responses to physical-social stimuli; mercenary and exact habits would probably correlate with social conditions or stimuli, while sincerity and suavity responses correspond to persons as stimuli.

c. Both interesting and important are the numerous habit responses, which because of their particular morphologic organization, we may call feeling actions. In this class we may place sentiments, faith, reverence, awe, prayer and mystic exaltation reactions to what we might call religious stimuli, conditions and situations. Also, among these feeling habits we may place love reactions toward persons, and appreciative responses to art objects and aesthetic works of nature. Easily recognized are the feeling habits of depression and incipient melancholia which we acquire as responses to social stimuli of various sorts and to some sorts of physical stimuli also. Faith habits need not be connected merely with supernatural things or conditions represented by words or other institutions, but we develop faith reactions to our capacities and success in life, or acquire faith in other persons and in social institutions. When we consider such habit responses as sentiments we are more than ever convinced of the large series of specific stimulating situations to which we respond with complex feeling habits; for we make sentiment responses to all kinds of political, moral, economic, religious and aesthetic situations. It will not be superfluous to mention again that our criterion in this class of habit responses is mainly morphological', and to be specific, we might propose the hypothesis that these responses involve large elements of glandular, autonomic-nervous and affective factors irrespective of the stimuli with which they are connected.

d. To another series of complex social reactions we may give the name intellectual habits. To the intellectual surroundings about us we acquire direct and immediate modes of response. Morphologically all the members of this series when considered as a class are more alike than unlike, while the members of any

( 217) specific one of the types differ more from the members of nonintellectual habit series than from any specific type of the intellectual series. But this fact of morphological likeness between the members of the intellectual habit series does not extend at all to their functional character for in their operation the different members are unique. To illustrate this difference we propose to call these habit reactions, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, convictions and intuitions.

1. By intellectual attitudes we mean the fairly vague cultural responses to intellectual stimuli. Workingmen respond habitually to problems affecting them in a manner that we might call a worker's standpoint. Similarly the capitalist is habituated to think in terms of the increase and conservation of capital and industrial control. Habits are very directly connected with the group auspices under which they are formed. Thus nationality, social stratum, profession, clubs, churches and in fact every group connection modifies the cultural attitudes, no matter what the individual starts with. Naturally there are many factors which condition this modification of intellectual attitudes, among which are length of contact with the present person or group, besides stability and authority of the stimuli in the situation.

2. Opinions as intellectual habits are specific intellectual attitudes concerning particular facts and conditions surrounding the individual; they are the permanent records of the results achieved from the specific problems a person has faced and are genuine products of the interaction of an individual with his informational surroundings.

3. Intuitions are subtle modes of intellectual responses which are developed within the boundaries of a given field. Individuals appear to have capacity to perform certain intellectual functions with an ease, rapidity, and correctness which on the part of others requires long and laborious calculation and reasoning. In the popular mind women are especially gifted with this power, but this conclusion, as all those of similar origin, is unwarranted by fact. Intuition is an every day capacity possessed by all individuals in a certain degree. Women who have had family 

(218) responsibilities for a considerable time come to discern with acuteness, and subtlety the conditions affecting the home group. They habituate themselves so efficiently to conditions influencing the family and its interests that they become marvelously adept in observing untoward changes in it, and respond immediately in the way of correcting these undesirable conditions. The same situation prevails in the case of the experienced business man who seems to solve his problems without any reasoning. Here the fact is the same as in the preceding case; long familiarity with similar conditions engenders a capacity to short-cut the solution; the usual trial and error factors are gradually eliminated. The individual concerned has learned precisely how and where to direct his attention in the particular case, the facts in the situation need not be elicited; they appear directly upon the surface. Intuition then is a habit of solving problems of all sorts no matter what they are specifically, whether practical problems of every day life or technical problems of commerce, industry, law or what not. Intuitive modes of intellectual activity are especially common in mathematical studies and the consequence of this sort of integration we have been describing is that the mathematician solves complex problems by ostensibly merely glancing at them.

4. Belief habits are very similar to opinions but a difference can be located in the definiteness with which the person is in contact with the informational stimuli. Belief habits are actions integrated with stimuli facts to which the individual reacts in such a way that the facts in question are inadequately known or appreciated by the acting individual. Possibly it is true also that belief habits are the connecting links between the intellectual and the feeling habits.

5. Convictions are definite modes of intellectual response towards somewhat less specific informational stimuli and conditions and are more deeply rooted in the behavior equipment of the individual than are opinions. That is to say, a greater element of social convention enters into the process of building up convictions and consequently they are more obviously a part of our intellectual equipment and refer to more prevalent and stable facts and conditions in our cultural milieu. Also, convictions

( 219) may be said to be characterized by a lesser appreciation on the part of the individual as to the conditions which led up to their acquisition than is the case with opinions.

Other intellectual habit responses might be isolated and in each case we would find a typical form of response coupled very intimately with some sort of social or intellectual stimulus situation. We need only mention impressions of all sorts, superstitions, prejudices, and conventional views, to make clear that the list of intellectual habits is a longer one than we have intimated. Consider the infinite possibilities for the integration of habit responses which are found in and suggested by the various cultural and social institutions about us. To make a catalogue of our habit equipment we would have to point out the responses induced in us by all our surroundings, economic, social, national, religious, political and intellectual institutions.

3. Habits integrated with personal stimuli

Since personal stimuli are merely social institutions of various sorts deliberately modified or accepted by the individual we shall expect that the habit reactions to such stimuli will be more refined and individual responses of the same general order as we have just discussed. One feature above all stands out and characterizes the habits integrated with personal stimuli and this w e may define as a peculiar. intimacy of response in any particular case and a definite coloring by the peculiar behavior equipment of the person.

Among the prominent habit reactions in this class we may mention ideals of all sorts, moral, social, scientific, aesthetic, etc., ambitions, strivings, criticisms, and other familiar adjustments to personal stimuli. We should not expect of course to find any degree of commonalty between the personal habit equipment of different individuals.

From our study it should seem strikingly clear that such a catalogue of habit traits or characteristics of behavior can only be very fragmentary and schematic. Any enumeration that is made must very obviously be merely a sample of any person's equip-

( 220) -ment. In the first place, it is impossible thus to catalogue all the habits that are acquired by various individuals since the list would be of appalling length. And in the second place, no significant catalogue can be made unless it is taken from the equipment of specific individuals. Above all we must observe that the names we apply to the habit reactions are not only not absolute terms representing a single form of habit, but as we have already indicated they are not exclusively the names of habit responses. They may just as easily be applied to acts which do not answer to the particular integration characteristics which we have suggested as the particular marks of habit behavior segments.


To inquire into the mechanism of the acquisition of habit responses means to investigate the conditions under which they are built up. Immediately we observe that two sets of such conditions must be attended to, since habit acts as we have repeatedly stated have two salient features, namely the stimuli situations and their corresponding responses. Accordingly we find in this fact a natural division of our inquiry.

a. Response conditions

Under this rubric we may discuss the conditions of habit formation which have to do mainly with the response factors of habit behavior. And first we may observe that we can point out two main sources for the development of the habit response systems.

1. The development of new reaction systems. The organism has at any period in its career a definite equipment of response systems which have been developed upon a basis of previously acquired ones. Now the newer organization, or perhaps we should say, in some cases at least, the reorganization of response systems, is a process of integrating a larger action system by the stimulation of some given stimulus object or condition. In the final analysis these habit response acquisitions go back to what we may call basic behavior, that is to say, the first and original

( 221) adaptive responses which in turn are integrated from simple responses which may not improperly be called organic responses and original action properties of the individual.

2. Another and equally fruitful way of developing habit response systems is by conditioning reactions we already possess. This process is very similar if not identical with that of conditioning reflexes and exemplifies admirably the essential feature of habit behavior, namely the integration of responses with stimuli. Through this second mode of habit formation are built up the large majority of social habit responses.

b. Stimuli conditions

In some cases the stimuli may correctly be said to be responsible for the cultivation or establishment of the habit responses with which they are connected. Among the stimuli conditioning habit reactions are the following.

1. Natural objects and conditions. Because we have around us physical objects, persons of particular sorts and physical conditions we integrate with them specific modes of behavior. To illustrate, we might deem it almost inevitable that we must build up swimming or rowing habits when we live near a river or other body of water and especially if we must frequently cross the stream. Essentially we must consider habit responses as adaptive functions and when the natural surroundings dictate, the appropriate responses will be acquired. The same may be said about the acquisition of language habit reactions. Language conditions necessitate the building up of particular sorts of verbal and speech reactions.

2. A common and well known stimulus condition for the acquisition of habit responses are the functioning of the person's own organic reflexes. With such action stimuli are integrated the habit responses popularly called drug and drink habits. In these phenomena we have a definitely circular process in that we acquire the stimulus as a habit response. The ordinary mechanism is somewhat as follows. Through contact with liquors, drugs and other objects we develop organic reflexes of all varieties which

( 222) may be considered as organized into definite habit responses. Because these responses are organic reflexes they are easily aroused to action. But in the course of their organization these organic habits have become integrated with various overt manual and social acts which have become in a genuine way responses to the organic habits as stimuli; so that now when the organic reactions are functioning they serve as stimuli to call out the other actions. It is these latter which we are calling the habits in this case, although the phases of drug habits which we call the coercive and distressing features may appear as the typical features in the habit situation. These types of habit actions are peculiar among all the habits of our behavior equipment in the fact that only in them are the stimuli in any way increased or modified.

3. For the formation of complex social habit responses a definite series of human conditions are urgently operative. We need mention only the economic, social and moral pressures exerted upon us by our surrounding conditions. Frequently such conditions are direct adjustmental stimuli for the acquisition of habit responses, but in many other cases these economic, social and educational conditions serve merely as auxiliary stimuli. Consider the particular thought habits of a person who is definitely an adherent of a certain professional or other vocational group. How differently the minister appreciates social dicta and how much more sensitive he is than the gambler or other person who profits more by various unconformities to group pronouncements than by the support and perpetuation of them. Also, within a fairly restricted circle we can observe how much more stable and definite are scientific facts and formulations to the teacher of them or the practitioner who uses them than to the discoverer and the investigator. And how much more easily the discoverer is induced to question and relinquish what are considered facts than the physician or teacher.

4. Meriting special discussion are the social institutions among which we all live and which almost inevitably and imperiously compel us to build up all descriptions of social habits. By social institutions are meant customs, conventions, organizations, and

( 223) actions which are common stimuli for the behavior of the various individuals forming the groups among which we carry on our behavior. Many if not most of what are called social traits consist of the social habits acquired through contact with institutional stimuli.

5. A very important form of habit responses are those which we are practically forced to acquire as responses to personal stimuli, prominent among which are the attitudes, thoughts and beliefs of other persons directed toward the high estimation and the furtherance of our interests and advantages, and therefore we are forced to acquire habits, actions and thoughts for the preservation and progression of those interests. How many such habits the person actually acquires it is almost impossible to estimate, but that the list is an enormous one it is not difficult to convince ourselves.

In this connection a very interesting and important problem arises with respect to the influence our intentions have upon the acquisition of our habit behavior equipment. In the simple responses to natural objects it is clear that the person's intentions are as far removed from the acquisitional situations as can be. But in the acquisition of our complex social habit responses a far different condition prevails. In the more complex situations we may be very definitely and very largely conditioned by our choice and preference. We intentionally build up habit responses of all sorts to suit our own fancy and purposes both by our interest in the results to be obtained from the possession of the habit and our interest in the action itself. When the intention of the individual is considered in connection with various stimulating circumstances we may properly speak of the motivation operative in habit formation. For by motivation we mean the process of weighing and evaluating the various objects and conditions stimulating us to action. When we have a problem of motivation in connection with habit formation we may properly say then that we are considering both the response and stimuli phases of the habit situation. Typical of intentional habit reaction acquisitions are the mannerisms, customs and accomplishments we build up in order to attain to a certain level of society or to gain an advantage over other persons or groups.


c. Combination stimuli and response conditions

A great many of our habit responses are acquired through the influence of both stimuli And response conditions operating at once, but contrary to our other two cases in which either the stimuli or response conditions were more predominant in this case the two conditions are equally prominent. Specifically these twofold influences upon our processes of habit formation may be considered as identical with the general conditions of association, commonly referred to as frequency and recency of contact, the condition of the organism at the time, etc.


That individuals acquire many advantages through the acquisition of habits is a familiar fact of current psychology, and the writer is encouraged to believe that the integration hypothesis of habits serves better to account for this fact of modification than any statement that has yet been proposed. Let us recall briefly what are these advantages accrued from habits. It has been asserted, and quite correctly too, that habits make for specificity, ease, accuracy and speed of action. Do not all of these advantages follow very clearly from the fact of integration? Furthermore, because habit responses are so definitely and inseparably connected with particular stimuli we can readily see how the presence of many habits in the behavior equipment of the person would mean that his production of any given objects per unit of time would be greatly increased and his work accomplished with a miminum of fatigue.

Now all of the above advantages refer to habit actions which we may call fairly simple overt responses but since our range of habits is not exclusively confined to such comparatively simple responses the catalogue of advantages would apply equally to other types of habits. Especially would this hold true for acts involved in the solution of simpler mathematical problems, the formation of judgments in various fields of work, and other forms of action. Obviously, not all the advantages mentioned apply to

( 225) all specific types of habit action and on the other hand, other advantages to the organism than we have mentioned might be, elicited.

Turning now to the more complex forms of habit responses we might say of them that they adapt the person in his larger behavior setting, and by the latter we mean the social situations in which the person finds himself. Our point is that the more complex habit actions such as talents, information and technological skill may operate to give the person social and economic advantages or merely to increase his standing in the estimation and graces of his contemporaries. In many cases the advantages to the person may be so lacking in definite adaptational value that we can not say more than that the person is a better individual than he would have been without the particular habit acquisitions in question. In the latter case, we may more properly speak of the superiorities accruing to the personality rather than any advantages of adaptation either social or organic.

It remains now merely to point out that while any habit behavior segment when considered by itself operates more smoothly and more directly than a non-integrated segment this does not necessarily mean that the habit act as a whole will redound to the advantage of the person. Very frequently it is the case that habit actions place the individual at a great disadvantage. Strikingly appears this point when we consider such habit responses as tics, choreic movements and the various mannerisms that are disapproved of socially.


Habit responses as unique action components of the person's behavior equipment we find to be definite responses of the individual to specific stimuli-objects and events. The principle point then about habits is the fact of the close integration of the stimulus and the response. If this view be correct we can readily appreciate why it is that habits appear to be, on the one hand, general capacities, while on the other, they seem to be specific responses; that is to say, the term habit may be considered as a generic symbol for responses of various morphological types.

( 226) But after all, 0i is integrative character of habits accounts for the fact that each distinct habit connection comprises some specific form of response and some particular stimulus or condition.

Since the process of integration takes place at all levels of our action there appears no warrant to limit habits to simple overt responses. Rather, we might say that no matter what the particular reaction is it may be inseparably connected with some particular stimulus. Accordingly, as we have seen, the list of habits may include social responses, intellectual and feeling activities as well as simple overt reactions. Emphatically, this does not mean that the term habit symbolizes all the reactions acquired by the individual.

Again, in the conception of habits as intrinsically integration of responses with stimuli we find some valuable suggestions for the approach to the problem of habit formation. As long as psychologists attempted to find the factors for habit formation exclusively in the physiological organism no definite progress could be made in the solution of this problem. When habits are considered, however, as integrations of responses and stimuli the careful study of the stimulating auspices of the individual must yield significant and serviceable information concerning how habits are formed or acquired and how they operate later. Upon such a basis may we not entirely dispense with the peculiar idea which is all too prevalent that we can learn habits with the cortex and later perform the reactions with the so-called lower centers?

In this integration conception of habits we also find suggestions as to what the differences are between habits and other forms of behavior so far as attention and cognition are concerned. The matter appears to be as follows. Whereas in various complex actions the attention and cognition reaction systems are autonomous acts preceding the final response which gives the name to the behavior segment, in the case of habits the whole action phase of the segment is so closely integrated with the stimulus situation that the preceding attention and cognition reactions are muchly syncopated and serve no very elaborate function. Not the least significant value of the integration conception at this point is the intimation of what psychologists actually mean by the increased presence or absence of conscious factors in behavior.


  1. missing
  2. Concerning this point and the discussion of the behavior segment and its partial phases, see Kantor, A Tentative Analysis of the Primary Data of Psychology, Jour. of Philos.,1921,18, 253 ff.

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