Trainline, Europe’s leading independent train travel app, has commissioned a study with Behavioural Psychologist Jo Hemmings to look into the UK’s predictable behaviours. We caught up with Jo to find out just why we favour the familiar and the effects it can have on our lives. 

People will often stand in the same spot at the train station

People will often stand in the same spot at the train station

Why do 80% of Brits revel in the what they know?

The human brain has a need for predictability. It craves certainty to prevent the anxiety of the fight or flight response lodged in the part of our brain, known as the limbic system. When our minds detect unpredictability, we tend to find it difficult to focus on other issues – and so certainty feels rewarding and comforting.

Are predictable patterns of behaviour a good or a bad thing?

There are some elements of life that we just don’t want to have to consider or concern ourselves with. We need a certain degree of predictable behaviour in our lives to both make sense of our world and for us to feel reassured that everything is at should be. Much of our predictable behaviour is subconscious – we are not aware of repeating patterns.

This kind of predictability can be seen clearly in the Trainline research, when people were questioned about their weekday morning routine. While what they actually did first had a fair degree of variance, from 38% making a cup of tea or coffee, 11% jumping in the shower and 23% checking their laptop, smartphone or tablet, a whopping 73% of respondents followed their morning routine in the exact same order, every weekday morning.

How important is it to have a balance between the two?

The balance between predictable behaviour and spontaneity, for example, is key to getting the right balance in life. It’s important to be spontaneous to experience anything new, different and exciting. However if we only behave totally unpredictably, then not only does that chaos for the people around us, it is actually pretty stressful to not have the anchor or stability of a certain degree of predictable behaviour.

What are the most common habits Brits have on a daily basis?

We are especially predictable when it comes to both leisure and travel. While 66% of Brits have regular train travelling habits – like picking the same spot on the platform every day or preferring a certain seat or position in a carriage – 70% of us like to holiday somewhere we have either visited before or is familiar to use from previous journeys.

Why is there some comfort in going back to the same old TV shows and books?

The Trainline research revealed that 80% of us prefer to return to genres of books, films or TV shows that we know we like. Understandably, when we want to be entertained we are much more likely to watch or read something which we know we have enjoyed in the past. This is something we do as children – enjoying bedtime stories we have heard many times before or repeating nursery rhymes or songs we are familiar with. There is comfort and reassurance in the predictable.

How do apps play a part in this predictability?

Apps take a great deal of the pressure off us to research, compare or take notes on what we do in our daily lives. A trusted app, which informs us of everything we need to know with a swipe or tap or two (and even some things we didn’t realise we wanted to know, but soon become indispensable!) frees us up to get on with the rest of our days’ activities. As an example, the Trainline app’s real-time updates show if and when platforms and timetables change, so people are less likely to feel caught out, as the app tries to keep them in control of their journey.

Is there any harm in changing up your routine if it’s served you well for a period of time?

Not at all, in fact it’s to be encouraged. We all need to step out of our comfort zones to try out new experiences and of course the practicalities of life change and evolve – if you don’t keep abreast of change, you may well be missing out.

What are your top tips for someone who wants to shake things up?

Make some small changes at first – try out a new TV show or read a different genre of book. If you’re used to eating the same thing for lunch every day or your supper menus never change, try something new for a change. It can be anything – a different route to work, a dating app, a new holiday destination or a change of workout at the gym. You may learn to love it – and if you don’t, you can return to the familiar the next time.

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