Haley Scholars Spring 2013 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?