Automatic behaviour: Efficient Not Mindless.

Lauren Saling, James G Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Automaticity is a core construct underpinning theoretical accounts of human performance and cognition. In spite of this, its current conceptualisation is plagued by circularity ' automaticity is typically defined in terms of the very behaviour it seeks to explain ' and a lack of internal consistency'defining features of automaticity do not reliably co-occur. Furthermore, invoking automaticity tends to be post hoc as it is used to explain violations of dominant theories of attention. Prevailing models of automaticity explain automatic processing as merely faster processing than controlled processing. We present an alternative conceptualisation of automaticity as efficient, elegant and economical but not fast. This is supported by functional imaging studies, which reveal a pattern of reduced global activation as well as a shift in activation from cortical to subcortical areas once automaticity has been achieved. Were automaticity to be faster processing, functional imaging would indicate greater activation when an automatic task is performed. We propose possible circuitry of automaticity incorporating the direct pathways of the basal ganglia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Automatic behaviour: Efficient Not Mindless.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this