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Author's Forum To Delve Into 'Habit'

Oct. 29, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Charles Duhigg, author of this year’s Bearkats Read to Succeed common reader selection The Power of Habit, became interested in habits about a decade ago, when, as a reporter in Iraq, he heard about an army major who had been analyzing videotapes of riots.

The result of that interest, and years of research, The Power of Habit provides a guide to understanding human nature and its potential for transformation, showing readers how they can succeed in anything from business, to weight loss, to raising exceptional children, to becoming more productive.

headshot Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Power of Habit, will be on campus on Nov. 6 to discuss various ways habits impact our lives.

Duhigg and several Sam Houston State University faculty members will use some of the book’s themes to delve into the impact of habit in one’s life during this year’s Bearkats Read to Succeed Author’s Forum.

The two-day series of presentations, held Nov. 6-7, will include a keynote address, writer’s workshop and discussions on consumer behavior, the psychology of habits and the habits of racial privilege.

The presentations will kick off on Wednesday with Duhigg’s keynote address on “The Power of Habit,” during which “Duhigg will have you rethinking your entire world,” according to First Year Experience director Kay Angrove. The address will be from 11-11:50 a.m. in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom.

“According to Charles Duhigg most of the choices we make each day may seem like products of well-considered decision making, but they are not; they are really habits,” Angrove said. “The key to building or breaking habits is to understand what he calls ‘the habit loop,’ which he will explain during his talk.”

That afternoon, Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter, will share with budding writers the secrets of successful investigative reporting and how to successfully approach the task of writing a book during a Writer’s Workshop from 2-2:50 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Theatre.

Duhigg’s first book spent 62 weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists. He is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Business School and a frequent contributor to NPR’s This American Life, Frontline and other programs.

At 3 p.m., marketing professionals will delve into Duhigg’s ideas on consumer behavior and how corporations capitalize on people’s purchasing habits—that is, what motivates them to purchase one brand or product over another—with a presentation on “Market Research: Consumer Behavior.”

The hour-and-a-half session, in LSC Room 320, will feature Susan Saurage-Altenloh, president of Saurage Marketing Research, and Renee Gravois-Lee, associate professor of marketing, who will show how marketing companies research and provide insights on customer behaviors and buying habits, which, in turn, fuel corporate strategic planning.

Bearkats Read to Succeed
Author's Forum
Schedule of Events

Wednesday, Nov. 6

11 a.m.
"The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" Keynote address, featuring Charles Duhigg
in the LSC Ballroom

2 p.m.
Writer's Workshop with Duhigg
in the LSC Theater

3:30 p.m.
"Market Research—Consumer Behavior," with Renee Gravois-Lee and Susan Saurage-Altenloh
in the LSC 320

5 p.m.
Bearkats Read to Succeed Contest Reception and Award Ceremony
in the LSC Art Gallery

Thursday, Nov. 7

9:30 a.m.
"Psychology of Habits," with Marsha Harman
in the LSC Ballroom

11 a.m.
"History and the Habits of Racial Privilege," with Jeffrey Littlejohn
in the LSC Ballroom

The first day’s events will end that evening, when the First Year Experience Office will recognize the winners of its art competition during a reception and awards ceremony from 5-6 p.m. in the LSC Art Gallery.

Thursday morning presentations will begin at 9:30 a.m., when psychology professor and director of the SHSU Professional and Academic Center for Excellence Marsha Harman will tackle the idea of habit formation. The hour-and-a-half presentation will be in the LSC Ballroom.

“Psychology of Habits” will explore how society classifies habits as “good” or “bad” and how one goes about breaking those habits.

“Habits are just routinized behaviors that can be triggered by almost anything that encourages a habit; even what we consider bad habits are rewarded in some way,” Harman said. “For instance, if one smokes, one is reinforced by the nicotine and the feeling, however brief, of well-being.”

In her presentation, Harman will ask her audience to interact with one another to analyze these ideas—what makes a habit good or bad and how those are triggered and reinforced in personal habits.

“Many psychologists have researched habits, both trying to form them (like effective studying) and trying to break them (procrastination),” Harman said. “Researchers in social psychology have studied patterns of behavior in which we might be persuaded to perform some behavior or in which we might try to persuade someone to perform a behavior.

“We will explore some of the social psychology techniques of persuasion that many people use, or have used, on them and may not understand the phenomenon at work,” she said. “It is important to understand the influence of habit to avoid being manipulated and to acquire effective habits for well-being and career.”

The final presentation, by associate professor of history Jeffrey Littlejohn, will examine “History and the Habits of Racial Privilege,” from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. in the LSC Ballroom.

Littlejohn’s presentation—based on Duhigg’s chapter on Martin Luther King Jr.’s and the Montgomery Bus Boycott’s impact on society-wide habits—will explore social, cultural habits that exist across our current culture, and especially racial norms.

“Barbara Field (author of Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life) points out that race as an ideology was created to benefit and explain white privilege and that even after the hard sciences disproved the biological reality of race, American culture continued to used race, and continues to this day, sometimes unwittingly, to the benefit of white people,” Littlejohn said. “Some people do not realize that race is not biologically real. There is not a genetic marker for being African American, other than skin color. You can’t link someone’s skin color to their moral or ethical behavior, or to their intelligence.”

Littlejohn will highlight what he calls the “invisible habits of racial privilege,” and how those habits have affected 20th- and 21st-century economic and social realities.

“I am going to try to point out discreet areas, like housing policy or policing techniques, where racial norms—the habits of race and racial privilege—have affected real people, and continue to affect real people, to the benefit of some groups and the detriment of others,” he said.

For more information on any of the Author’s Forum events, contact the FYE Office at 936.294.3422 or fye@shsu.edu.



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