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Automaticity

Robert S. Wyer


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Automaticity in information processing is best conceptualized in terms of its antithesis. “Deliberative” processing involves the comprehension and use of information for a particular purpose (e.g., to make a judgment or decision, to communicate to others, etc.). This processing is conscious and intentional; it requires some degree of cognitive or motor effort, and it is volitional. In contrast, behavior is automatic if it does not have one or more of these characteristics. That is, it is unintentional or it is performed unconsciously without awareness or it is effortless or it is unable to be controlled. Although these criteria are not independent, a behavior is often characterized as automatic if it meets any one of them (→  Cognition ; Information Processing ; Mindlessness and Automaticity ). Of the four criteria for inferring automaticity, lack of awareness is most widely investigated. Numerous experiments demonstrate that stimuli to which people are exposed subliminally (below the threshold of conscious awareness) can influence not only the concepts they use to interpret information but also the information they use as a basis for inferences and the standards they employ in making comparisons (→  Experimental Design ). Furthermore, these stimuli can activate goal-directed behavior and can have a direct impact on behavioral decisions (→  Goals, Cognitive Aspects of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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