Haley Scholars Fall 2012 Reading Groups
By Danielle Hall
In chapter nine of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores the complex links between deep-rooted habits as automatic behaviors, “the neurology of free will,” and the role of society in assigning responsibility. He queries “the ethics of habit and choice” through the lives of Brian Thomas and Angie Bachmann — both of whom on the exterior appear to have two remotely different experiences that result in loss. Yet, both examples demonstrate how the brain responds to ingrained habits and how neurological processes can trigger or impede one’s ability to make decisions.
According to Duhigg, some habits are indeed “automatic behaviors so ingrained in our neurology that, studies show, they can occur with almost no input from the higher regions of the brain” (255). In other words, Brian’s automatism/sleep terror and Angie’s pathological gambling look quite similar when viewed as reflexive behaviors or responses from individuals acting without choice. Despite the outcome in each narrative, Duhigg reminds readers that even under the most uncanny or dire circumstances, “habits… aren’t destiny” but that “every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable” (270).
He later states that the “real power of habit” is “the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be (273).” Based on the reading, do you feel that Angie Bachmann’s gambling case was (more/less/as) justified as Brian Thomas’ sleep terror example? Why?