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When does the past repeat itself? The role of self-prediction and norms

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Although we know that many behaviors are repeated, we know little about what influences the strength and likelihood of behavior repetition. In this paper, we argue that asking people to predict their future behavior increases the chances that they will repeat what they have done in the past when normative beliefs are weak but reduces the likelihood when normative beliefs are strong. In two field experiments and two laboratory studies, we show that self-prediction leads to greater polarization for non-normative behaviors (e.g., it makes frequent shoppers shop more and infrequent shoppers shop less) but leads to regression toward the norm for normative behaviors (e.g., it makes daily exercisers exercise less and intermittent exercisers exercise more). By identifying a new antecedent of behavior repetition (self-prediction) and a moderator (normative beliefs), our framework and results contribute to the debate on the relative importance of habits and intentions with regard to guiding future behavior. We also contribute to the general area of question-behavior research by demonstrating a new consequence of self-prediction and reconciling some of the seemingly contradictory findings from the specific areas of meremeasurement and self-prophecy research.

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