Saturday, January 21, 2006

Two types of habits

There are two types of habits than influence our stuttering: automatic and cognitive habits.

An automatic habit is a process that runs independently of an executive order by the person. You might be choking when swallowing a pill, getting nervous when the phone rings, looking down when you have a block, word substitution when you cannot say a word. This process is more or less automatised, and cannot be controlled at all or only with outmost focus, attentation and energy. You can force yourself to look into someone's eyes while blocking, but it is very hard if you have always looked down. Such habits are really programmed in your brain, most likely in the amygdala that says in "Situation X -> do Y without asking for permission by the cortex". Without such functionality, our life would be a nightmare.

A cognitive habit is an habitual way of thinking about the same situation without really thinking. Examples: I need to do a phone call I will ask my partner to do it, They want me to speak I will say no, When I call someone I will stutter, I will never be more fluent, Without my stuttering I would have achieved more. All these habitual thoughts are done without any pressure from a situation, i.e. there are no 50 people looking at you or the person on the phone is waiting or you are feeling a block coming. No, you are under no pressure, but you have pre-prepared lines of thoughts for certain situations.

Cognitive habits are easier to tackle by re-thinking one's constructs. Automatic habits are much more difficult to change.


Lloyd said...

If automatic habits do not while cognitive habits change due to speech therapy/counseling, I would think that bad cognitive habits relating to speech would return...

Tom Weidig said...

In van Ripper (what I can dysfluency shaping), you work on BOTH the secondary symptoms (automatic habits) and psycho stuff (cognitive habits).

I would have thought that it is easier to change cognitive habits than automatic habits. During relapse, I think I first get my automatic habits back and then my cognitive habits.

The question is also which came first, when a child grew into an adult stutterer?