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What is Automaticity?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
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Automaticity is the degree of aptitude displayed by an individual to perform common tasks without having to use a great deal of concentration or effort. Employing spontaneity and the ability to move forward on impulse, automaticity adds to the richness of interaction with others and being productive during the waking hours. While the individual is aware of the activity on some level, it is also possible to be focused on other activities at the same time. The ability to multitask is only possible due to the human capability to perform spontaneous actions with a minimum of self-regulation required.

The easiest way to understand automaticity is to think of everyday activities that are often performed at the same time. For example, a teenager who is able to listen to music while also completing a homework assignment is multitasking by focusing a small amount of attention on each function, rather than giving one task his or her full attention. Another common scenario would be adults who carry on a conversation while driving a vehicle. A portion of the psyche handles the process of driving while another portion engages in the verbal discussion.

Part of the process for developing automaticity involves learning and mastering to perform various tasks. When learning how to drive a car, the student devotes a larger share of his or her attention to the activity. Once the individual has mastered the art of driving, the task does not require the same level of effort or concentration. As the task begins to take on more of an involuntary nature, it is possible to engage in other activities at the same time, such as singing along with the radio, talking on a cell phone, or enjoying a conversation with passengers in the vehicle.

It is important to note that it is only when the tasks at hand can be performed without a great deal of concentration that automaticity exists. This state can only be achieved by engaging in a learning process that is reinforced with a great deal of repetition and practice. As the details of the activity are assimilated and become routine, proficiency is developed to the point that it is possible to engage in the task with little to no conscious thought.

Automaticity plays a role in assisting people to perform routine and repetitive tasks in the workplace, such as spending the day with data entry or assembly line work. This ability to devote a portion of mental and physical capabilities to more than one task ensures that it is possible to remain mentally sharp rather than become bored with the work and possibly begin to make errors. From this perspective, automaticity can be seen as essential for maintaining productivity.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Language & Humanities, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon230961 — On Nov 22, 2011

@anon230857: It is because they are not the same. Automaticity means that you can do something without the need to care or to think about it, (like eating when you are hungry, sleeping when you are sleepy), while multi-tasking means that you do many tasks at the same time.

They seem to be similar but are different in their nature.

By anon230857 — On Nov 21, 2011

"Automaticity"? Why not just leave it at "multi-tasking," which seems to be the same thing?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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