Cognitive and context "Tuning": Tools to break anti-ecological habits

Rui Gaspar De Carvalho, José Manuel Palma-Oliveira, Natalie Wyer, Víctor Corral-Verdugo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The fact that people do not behave in the way they are expected to, does not have to do only with a lack of motivation and intention but also with cognitive processes that might interfere with this. Even if the person has an intention to perform an ecological behavior, there can be barriers and constraints that prevent the pro-ecological goal of being attained. Accordingly, one of the techniques that can be used to increase the success in attaining pro-ecological behavioral goals is the development of implementation intentions. However, this technique is sometime ineffectively used due to a disregard of contextual characteristics. To overcome this, we propose the use of context "tuning" as a means to increase the effectiveness of habit change in a habitual context and thus, promote new behaviors in this same context. By conducting two studies, we promoted changes in the salience of the means to attain a behavioral goal, in order to facilitate the desired response elicited by implementation intentions. This was assessed in an online shopping simulation (study 1), with organic and non-organic products to choose from, in two variations of the same habitual context: equal salience (equally salient organic and non-organic goals) and lower salience context(organic goals less salient). Results showed that implementation intentions benefited from context "tuning", with a higher number of organic products being chosen in the equal salience context compared to a lower salience context. In study 2, we used what we call cognitive "tuning," directed towards the modification of the mentally represented means-goal connections, to produce cognitive changes equivalent to the context changes. Results showed that, although this did not increase the context "tuning" effect success, it still allowed for it to be replicated. Moreover, it showed a pattern in which this cognitive "tuning" can be used as a "vaccine" to prevent habitual behavior to be performed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRecent Hispanic Research on Sustainable Behavior and Interbehavioral Psychology
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9781628081367
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Anti-ecological habits
  • Cognitive tuning
  • Context tuning
  • Intentions

Cite this