The way I see it:

In this article published in the Great Course Daily, we can read an extract from the lecture series: "Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You", taught by Professor Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D., where he explains the hugely importance of habits and how we could use some tools of cognitive neuroscience to help us break the bad ones. Something to be considered when confronting a behavioral change, and maybe some explanation why we do what we do.


As Aristotle noted, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Write it down: Cognitive neuroscientists have identified several reasons for the success of the notepad strategy. The most basic explanation derives directly from our knowledge about the unconscious processes that control behaviors. Since these unconscious processes are often in control of behaviors, you may not actually be aware of how often you engage in a particular habit.

Self control is like a muscle, stretch it down:  Researchers have explored another technique of behavioral modification using the theory that self-control is like a muscle. After an exercise workout, the muscle will be fatigued and less useful; however, when it heals, it gets stronger. It seems that if you practice self-control, you improve self-control—just like a muscle.

The seat of self control: Several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies  have characterized the location of the self-control ability in the medial and pre-central frontal cortices of the brain. These frontal lobes are associated with such tasks as problem solving, creativity, and strategic thinking and at the same time, with regulating the rest of the brain in impulse control and avoiding overly risky behavior. Precisely those areas in the frontal lobes are the latest sections to develop fully. Actually, between 18 and 22 years of age, there is a surge of development in the frontal lobes. Specifically, there is a large increase in the production of myelin—a fatty insulating substance that increases neuronal efficiency. During this same period of time, people get much better at self-control in general.

Create links: Instead of turning off an existing associative link—which is impossible—you can create an alternative associative link and make it stronger. You need to create a new, automatic, unconscious process that will take the place of the problematic one.

Positive and negative reinforcement: In positive reinforcement, something pleasant gets added to your experience after you perform a behavior. In negative reinforcement, something aversive gets removed after you perform a behavior. (Note that negative reinforcement is not the same as punishment). In positive punishment, something negative is added to your experience after you perform a behavior. In negative punishment, something positive gets removed after you perform a behavior.


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