Rethinking habits and their role in behaviour change: the case of low-carbon mobility

Tim Schwanen, David Banister, Jillian Anable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Citations (Scopus)


With the emergence of behaviour change on political and intellectual agendas in passenger transport, the question of how to understand and intervene in habitual carbon-intensive travel practices has become crucially important. Building primarily on the Aristotelian philosophies of Félix Ravaisson and John Dewey, we outline an approach to travel habits that is more positive than prevailing psychological perspectives. Rather than as the automatically cued, repetitive behaviour of individuals, habit is understood here as a generative and propulsive capacity brought about through repetition and contracted by body-mind-world assemblages that exceed the human individual as conventionally understood. The implications of the proposed conceptualisation of habits for behaviour change are also explored. We argue that widespread, durable behaviour change is unlikely to result from the displacement of automaticity by reasoned action but instead demands changes in collective customs. Additionally, a narrow focus on breaking carbon-intensive travel habits should be avoided. Not only should the formation of low-carbon habits and associated forms of embodied intelligence be stimulated; it is also important to capitalise on the potential for subtle change immanent to carbon-intensive travel habits in situations where individualised vehicular travel is the only realistic transport option.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-532
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Issue number-
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • behaviour change
  • habit
  • travel practices
  • low-carbon mobility
  • Ravaisson
  • Dewey


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