The Power of Habit


Charles Duhigg

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Power of Habit can help.

The Power of Habit Characters

Lisa Allen

Lisa Allen is an American woman who overcame a series of destructive habits—like smoking, overeating, and indebting herself—in a very short period of time, after getting divorced and taking a trip to Cairo. A scientific… read analysis of Lisa Allen

Angie Bachmann

Angie Bachmann is an American stay-at-home mother from Iowa who started visiting the local casino, then developed a severe gambling problem, and finally bankrupted herself and her entire family. At first, Bachmann went to the… read analysis of Angie Bachmann

Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy is a highly successful American football coach who turned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts into two of the NFL’s winningest teams. His secret was to make his players practice a few… read analysis of Tony Dungy

Claude C. Hopkins

Claude C. Hopkins was an influential American advertiser who ran several massive, successful marketing campaigns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most notably, he made tooth-brushing into a national habit by promising that… read analysis of Claude C. Hopkins

William James

William James was an influential American philosopher and psychologist active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In his 20s, James considered himself a failure, but turned his life around by forcing himself to… read analysis of William James
Get the entire The Power of Habit LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Power of Habit PDF


Julio was a monkey who participated in Wolfram Schultz’s experiments on cravings and habit formation. In these experiments, a shape on a computer screen cued him to press a lever, and he was intermittently… read analysis of Julio

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a world-renowned Black minister and activist who helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and, later, the broader U.S. civil rights movement. Duhigg argues that Dr. King helped… read analysis of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Travis Leach

Travis Leach is a Starbucks employee who credits his job with turning his life around. He had a difficult childhood: his parents were heroin addicts, and both died when he was a teenager. Unable to… read analysis of Travis Leach

Rich Meyer

Rich Meyer is the founder of Mediabase, a company that measures and analyzes the most popular songs at radio stations around the U.S. In 2003, he determined that people are more likely to listen all… read analysis of Rich Meyer

Mark Muraven

Mark Muraven is a psychologist who has conducted influential experiments on willpower. His research concludes that willpower is neither a limited resource nor a consistent skill that people can always exercise. Instead, Muraven has shown… read analysis of Mark Muraven

Paul O'Neill

Paul O’Neill was the CEO and chairman of Alcoa from 1987 to 2000, and then the Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002. By focusing on worker safety, O’Neill… read analysis of Paul O'Neill

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was a seamstress and activist who famously helped launch the Montgomery bus boycott and the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1955. Duhiggread analysis of Rosa Parks

Eugene Pauly

Eugene Pauly was an elderly California man who suffered from lasting brain damage after a severe infection. As a result of this damage, he couldn’t remember any new information—including what day of the week it… read analysis of Eugene Pauly

Andrew Pole

Andrew Pole is a talented statistician who used Target’s extensive data to build an algorithm to determine if its customers are pregnant. While Pole’s success demonstrates how companies and organizations can gain an edge by… read analysis of Andrew Pole

Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas is a British man who accidentally killed his wife during a sleep terror—an unconscious, extremely violent outburst in the middle of the night. The court ruled that Thomas was not legally responsible for… read analysis of Brian Thomas

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the influential pastor and founder of Saddleback Church. Duhigg describes how Warren spread his message and built a congregation by appealing to people’s habits. For instance, he accommodated people’s existing habits by… read analysis of Rick Warren
Minor Characters
Charles Duhigg
The author of The Power of Habit is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes about the intersection of business, technology, and psychology. He first became interested in habits while reporting from Baghdad for The Los Angeles Times in the early 2000s.
Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman was Michael Phelps’s childhood swimming coach. He taught Phelps many key habits, like following a consistent warm-up routine and visualizing the perfect race.
Reza Habib
Reza Habib is a psychologist and neuroscientist who studies how compulsive gamblers form their habits. His research shows that the habit loop completely overtakes these gamblers’ brains while they play, which means that they essentially lose control of their free will.
E.D. Nixon
E.D. Nixon was the leader of the NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1950s. He helped connect Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to launch the Montgomery bus boycott.
Beverly Pauly
Beverly Pauly was Eugene Pauly’s wife. She cared for him after his illness.
Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is the world-champion American swimmer and 23-time Olympic gold medalist. Duhigg cites Phelps’s pre-race routine as an example of how routines and keystone habits contribute to success.
Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz is the longtime CEO of Starbucks. Duhigg argues that Starbucks is so successful because Schultz learned about the importance of willpower early in life, then built Starbucks’s employee training strategies around teaching willpower as a habit.
Wolfram Schultz
Wolfram Schultz is a German neuroscientist who studies habit formation in his lab at the University of Cambridge. His experiments have shown that monkeys (like Julio) form habits when they form cravings—or learn to associate a habit loop’s cues with its rewards.
Larry Squire
Larry Squire is the world-renowned psychologist, neuroscientist, and memory researcher who studied Eugene Pauly after his illness. Pauly helped Squire understand the difference between ordinary conscious memory and the unconscious memory associated with habits.
Drake Stimson
Drake Stimson is the mathematician and marketer who led the advertising campaign for Proctor & Gamble’s odor-eliminating spray, Febreze. He struggled to convincingly sell the product at first, but eventually realized that people would use it if they learned to use it as a reward for cleaning.
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson was the New York man who found God, quit drinking, and started Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s.