from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The state or quality of being automatic.
  • noun Automatic mechanical action.
  • noun Philosophy The theory that the body is a machine whose functions are accompanied but not controlled by consciousness.
  • noun The involuntary functioning of an organ or other body structure that is not under conscious control, such as the beating of the heart or the dilation of the pupil of the eye.
  • noun The reflexive action of a body part.
  • noun Psychology Mechanical, seemingly aimless behavior characteristic of various mental disorders.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Automatic or involuntary action: in pathology, sometimes specifically applied to such purposeless actions as are often exhibited by patients after an epileptic fit.
  • noun The doctrine that animals, especially those below man, are automata, in the sense that all the phenomena exhibited by them are results of physical laws; especially, the doctrine of Descartes that animals are devoid of consciousness
  • noun The faculty of independently originating action or motion.
  • noun Specifically, in psychology: An action performed unconsciously or subconsciously while the agent's attention is otherwise engaged, or while he is in a trance or sleep-like state.
  • noun The mental state of the agent during such a performance.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Metaph.) The state or quality of being automatic; the power of self-moving; automatic, mechanical, or involuntary action.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Acting automatically or involuntarily.
  • noun psychology An action performed subconsciously, without any apparent direction from the mind; a thought which appears spontaneously in one's consciousness.
  • noun A surrealist painting technique whereby one attempts to move the brush, pen etc. without conscious control over it.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun any reaction that occurs automatically without conscious thought or reflection (especially the undirected behavior seen in psychomotor epilepsy)


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Latin automaton, automaton; see automaton.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From automat(on) + -ism.


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  • For if there be any automatism (and there is surely a good dose of it), it is certainly not a question of a mechanical automatism (of the type of Neumann's), but quite certainly of a true and proper _psychic automatism_; a very different thing, and without doubt much more complex.

    Lola or, The Thought and Speech of Animals Henny Kindermann

  • Bates' defence team said he had been briefly suffering from a rare condition called automatism at the time of the incident which meant he was not aware or responsible for what he was doing.

    BBC News - Home 2010

  • This seems unlikely, however, as he had at his disposal another brief term for the view he was concerned to promote, the meaning of which would have been more immediately accessible to most audiences, namely, "automatism".

    Epiphenomenalism Robinson, William 2007

  • So long as so many jobs are an endless and, for the worker, an aimless routine, a kind of automatism using one set of muscles in one monotonous pattern, his whole life will tend towards an automatism in which nothing is particularly to be distinguished from anything else unless it is announced with a thunderclap.

    Public Opinion Walter Lippmann 1931

  • Here, too, it is really a kind of automatism that makes us laugh -- an automatism, as we have already remarked, closely akin to mere absentmindedness.

    Laughter : an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic Henri Bergson 1900

  • Although questionable, it is perhaps to be preferred to other proposed explanations -- such as automatism, habit, "instinct," "nervous connections."

    Essai sur l'imagination créatrice. English Albert Heyem Nachmen Baron 1877

  • Taking the name "automatism" from the phenomenon of automatic writing -- I am not sure that he may not himself have been the first so to baptize this latter phenomenon -- he made one great simplification at a stroke by treating hallucinations and active impulses under a common head, as _sensory_ and _motor automatisms_.

    Memories and Studies William James 1876

  • Myers and Gurney began this work, the one by his serial study of the various sorts of "automatism," sensory and motor, the other by his experimental proofs that a split-off consciousness may abide after a post-hypnotic suggestion has been given.

    Memories and Studies William James 1876

  • Yet in a country where direct democracy is so deeply rooted that almost every decision is taken by referendum, the idea to adopt such legal "automatism" is unacceptable. - Headline News 2010

  • She had told the jury she was in a "dissociative state" known as "automatism" when she got behind the wheel after receiving an upsetting phone call from her ex-husband accusing her of slashing his tyres.

    The Sydney Morning Herald News Headlines 2009


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