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Good Habits, Bad Habits

The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick

Wendy Wood


Good Habits, Bad Habits Download image

ISBN10: 1250159091
ISBN13: 9781250159090

Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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We spend a shocking 43 percent of our day doing things without thinking about them. That means that almost half of our actions aren’t conscious choices but the result of our non-conscious mind nudging our body to act along learned behaviors. How we respond to the people around us; the way we conduct ourselves in a meeting; what we buy; when and how we exercise, eat, and drink—a truly remarkable number of things we do every day, regardless of their complexity, operate outside of our awareness. We do them automatically. We do them by habit. And yet, whenever we want to change something about ourselves, we rely on willpower. We keep turning to our conscious selves, hoping that our determination and intention will be enough to effect positive change. And that is why almost all of us fail. But what if you could harness the extraordinary power of your unconscious mind, which already determines so much of what you do, to truly reach your goals?

Wendy Wood draws on three decades of original research to explain the fascinating science of how we form habits, and offers the key to unlocking our habitual mind in order to make the changes we seek. A potent mix of neuroscience, case studies, and experiments conducted in her lab, Good Habits, Bad Habits is a comprehensive, accessible, and above all deeply practical book that will change the way you think about almost every aspect of your life. By explaining how our brains are wired to respond to rewards, receive cues from our surroundings, and shut down when faced with too much friction, Wood skillfully dissects habit formation, demonstrating how we can take advantage of this knowledge to form better habits. Her clear and incisive work shows why willpower alone is woefully inadequate when we’re working toward building the life we truly want, and offers real hope for those who want to make positive change.

Good Habits, Bad Habits is the perfect text for college-level psychology and behavior courses. Wendy Wood is also available to visit (virtually) any classes that adopt the book. Please contact for more information.


Praise for Good Habits, Bad Habits

"Many authors have written about habits . . . but Wood is also a premier scientist in psychology, working on how habits affect and are affected by the human mind. Top tip: Willpower isn’t enough. But through her original research, Wood explains what does work."—Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post

“Fascinating and fun, this book will change a lot of lives. So much of human behavior is habitual—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Wood brings state-of-the-art social science into contact with the most pressing issues in daily life. She’s a tremendous guide.”—Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University, and author of How Change Happens

“Wendy Wood is the most thoughtful, innovative researcher studying the central role habits play in human behavior. Her work on habits has guided scientific understanding and will have a similar impact on public knowledge. I can’t imagine a better person writing this book.”—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

“Wendy Wood is the world’s leading expert on habits—how we make them, break them, and change them. I expect that her book will be both eye-opening and immensely useful in teaching people how to get more done, quit smoking, start exercising, make better choices, and stop annoying their partners.”—Adam Grant, author of Originals

“No one has studied how habits form and influence behavior better than Wendy Wood. More importantly for readers, no one has done a better job of showing how to change negative habits into powerful, helpful versions.”—Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion

“An insightful guidebook from the world’s preeminent habits researcher. Good Habits, Bad Habits is a captivating tale of the science of habits and how you can use them to improve your life.”—Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On

“Drawing on decades of research, combined with the results of her own meticulous studies, Wendy Wood shows us how conventional advice on creating good habits and eliminating bad habits is bound to fail. Wood's research reveals the surprisingly simple features that lie at the heart of good and bad habits. In Good Habits, Bad Habits, she shows how understanding these features is crucial to making habits stick and teaches us how to shape our own habits to improve our lives."—Samuel D. Gosling, personality and social psychologist

"Good Habits, Bad Habits is a fascinating tour of the science of habits, and Wendy Wood is the consummate tour guide. One of the world's leading habit researchers, Wood shares decades of her own research with wit, charm, and a keen eye for the stories that illuminate the processes of habit-making, habit-breaking, and habit-reshaping. If you want to understand your own habits—and how they form and can be reformed—Good Habits, Bad Habits is for you."—Adam Alter, NYU Stern School of Business

"Good Habits, Bad Habits is a huge achievement. Wendy Wood manages to distill the science of habit formation, most of which emerges from her own lab, in a manner that is fascinating but also, above all, extremely useful for people looking to make positive change in their life."—David Kessler, New York Times-bestselling author of The End of Overeating and Capture

"[An] enlightening debut . . . [Wendy Wood] eloquently explains current research on the role habits play in everyday activities such as snacking, exercising, and commuting . . . Her insightful, data-driven advice includes tactics such as 'stacking'—grouping desired behaviors together with already-established behavioral patterns to incorporate actions into routines. Wood’s research and perspective on the malleability of habits will bring hope to any reader looking to create long-term behavioral change."Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Read an Excerpt


Persistence and Change

Habit is, as it were, a second nature.


Every so often, my cousin goes on Facebook to proclaim that she’s going to change her life. In her case, that means losing...

About the author

Wendy Wood

Wendy Wood is Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California. She has written for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, and USA Today, and on NPR. She lectures widely and recently launched the website Good Habits Bad Habits to convey scientific insight on habit to the general public.

Wendy Wood

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