Automaticity and multiple memory systems

F. Gregory Ashby*, Matthew J. Crossley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


A large number of criteria have been proposed for determining when a behavior has become automatic. Almost all of these were developed before the widespread acceptance of multiple memory systems. Consequently, popular frameworks for studying automaticity often neglect qualitative differences in how different memory systems guide initial learning. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that automaticity criteria derived from these frameworks consistently misclassify certain sets of initial behaviors as automatic. Specifically, criteria derived from cognitive science mislabel much behavior still under the control of procedural memory as automatic, and criteria derived from animal learning mislabel some behaviors under the control of declarative memory as automatic. Even so, neither set of criteria make the opposite error-that is, both sets correctly identify any automatic behavior as automatic. In fact, evidence suggests that although there are multiple memory systems and therefore multiple routes to automaticity, there might nevertheless be only one common representation for automatic behaviors. A number of possible cognitive and cognitive neuroscience models of this single automaticity system are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-376
Number of pages14
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


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