From Controlled to Automatic Processes and Back Again: The Role of Contextual Features


  • Rosa Angela Fabio
  • Tindara Caprì
  • Martina Romano


In cognitive psychology, classical approaches categorize automatic and controlled processes from a dichotomous point of view. Automatic processes are believed to be rigid, whereas controlled processes are thought to be flexible. New theories have softened this dichotomous view. The aim of the present study is to examine the possibility of implementing flexibility in automatic processing through reliance on contextual features. One hundred and twenty subjects (mean age 22.4, SD = 4.2), 60 male and 60 female, participated in this study. An automatic sequence task (with and without contextual features) was used to test flexibility in automatic processing. Results showed that the use of contextual cues can increase flexibility in automatic processes. The results are discussed in light of new theories on softened automaticity.