Attention: Automaticity

Automatic processes are operations that people do mostly without conscious control, like reading or tying shoelaces. Once a person has decided to tie their shoes, they no longer need to visualize and consciously control each motion. Automatic processes tend to involve little intention, awareness, or attentional resources, and can be performed in parallel.

The classic Stroop study found that there was a measurable inability for subjects to choose a controlled process (naming the color of ink that an item was printed in) over an automatic process (reading the word).

Source:
Sternberg, R.J. Cognitive Psychology, Second Edition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 73.

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