If you’re like many Americans, you probably start your day with a cup of coffee – a morning latte, a shot of espresso or maybe a good ol’ drip brew.
A common explanation among avid coffee drinkers is that we drink coffee to wake ourselves up and alleviate fatigue.
But that story doesn’t completely hold up. After all, the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary wildly. Even when ordering the same type of coffee from the same coffee shop, caffeine levels can double from one drink to the next. And yet, we coffee drinkers don’t seem to notice.
So what else might be driving us in our quest for that morning brew?
That’s one question we set out to answer in our recent research. The answer has far-reaching implications for the way we approach major societal challenges such as diet and climate change.
As behavioral scientists, we’ve learned that people often repeat everyday behaviors out of habit. If you regularly drink coffee, you likely do so automatically as part of your habitual routine – not just out of tiredness.
But habit just doesn’t feel like a good explanation – it’s unsatisfying to say that we do something just because it’s what we’re used to doing. Instead, we concoct more compelling explanations, like saying we drink coffee to ease our morning fog.
This reluctance means that we fail to recognize many habits, even as they permeate our daily lives.