The Automaticity Juggernaut—or, Are We Automatons After All?
The distinction between automatic and controlled cognitive processes was imported into social psychology, and formed the basis for a new generation of “dual-process” theories of social cognition and behavior. However, some social psychologists have gone further to claim that automatic processes dominate social interaction, leaving little room for anything like free will. For these theorists, human beings are machines — automatons — after all. However, no empirical evidence supports such a strong claim about human nature. In part, the automaticity juggernaut appears to reflect a reaction to the cognitive revolution in social psychology, with its implication that social interactions are mediated by conscious, deliberate, rational thought; in part, it may be a reflection of the biologization of social psychology. But it also seems to be a reflection of an emerging “People Are Stupid” trend within social psychology, as well as a throwback to the historical alliance between situationism and radical behaviorism. Finally, the emphasis on automaticity appears to be based on the “epiphenomenalist suspicion” that consciousness plays no role in human behavior, as well as the allure of the pinball determinism of classical physics.
Keywords: adaptive unconscious, affective counterrevolution, behaviorism, determinism, dual-process theories, situationism, epiphenomenalism, epiphenomenalist suspicion, process-dissociation procedure situationism
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