Habit discontinuity and student travel mode choice

Paul Haggar, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Stephen M. Skippon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (SciVal)


Overreliance on motorised travel modes aggravates existing problems of public obesity and global climate change. However, travel mode choices are often habitual, and habits are difficult to break, as automatic responses to stable-contexts learnt through repetition. One approach is to destabilise the stable-contexts that cue travel habits. Such an opportunity could arise when people move-house, so we predicted that the travel mode choices and habits of university students would change, without a behaviour change intervention, when they moved-house between academic terms. University students (N = 250)completed two questionnaires, around 5.5 months apart, between new academic years; 153 students moved-house (“movers”). As predicted when movers changed their travel mode choices, their new choices became more automatic and their old choices less automatic. Mover's travel changes were planned prior to moving-house, however there was insufficient evidence that either changes in the social context or activated values were related to travel changes. We discuss these findings with respect to acquiring habits and the habit discontinuity and self-activation hypotheses (Verplanken, Walker, Davis, & Jurasek, 2008)and the advantages of student house-hunting as a 'window of opportunity' for establish new travel habits amongst university students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Early online date11 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Habit discontinuity hypothesis
  • Habits
  • Travel mode choice
  • University students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology


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