Chapter 2

Characteristics of hard-to-maintain behaviours

This chapter describes some of the observable characteristics of HTM behaviours. It spells out what is unique to HTM behaviours and similarities and differences between the two main kinds: hard-to-reduce or resist (HTR) behaviours such as some forms of drug use, and their functional opposites, hard-to-sustain (HTS) behaviours such as exercise routines. It also considers the common situation where change involves a mix of both types of behaviour. The consequences of behaviour vary as a function of how immediate they are, which affects the ways they can potentially feedback to influence longer term maintenance.

We tend to study problematic behaviours more than simple ones, and focus our research on the hardest cases. Except for marketers, easy-to-adopt behaviours can take care of themselves. The level of understanding we seek for difficult cases tends only to be enough to develop effective interventions for change, or to get to a point where the behaviour has reduced enough in prevalence to no longer warrant concern. Thus, the amount of research can be taken as an indicator of the difficulty of the problem.

Types of behaviour to change

The term behaviour can refer to anything from discrete instances of a behaviour to behaviour patterns, which once established become habits. For example, exercise could refer to anything from walking a few steps, to a regular long walk, or a complex routine of walking, jogging, weight training ...

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