From Conscious Thought to Automatic Action

A Simulation Account of Action Planning

Torsten Martiny-Huenger, Sarah E. Martiny, Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm, Elisa Pfeiffer, Peter Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We provide a theoretical framework and empirical evidence for how verbally planning an action creates direct perception-action links and behavioral automaticity. We argue that planning actions in an if (situation)-then (action) format induces sensorimotor simulations (i.e., activity patterns reenacting the event in the sensory and motor brain areas) of the anticipated situation and the intended action. Due to their temporal overlap, these activity patterns become linked. Whenever the previously simulated situation is encountered, the previously simulated action is partially reactivated through spreading activation and thus more likely to be executed. In 4 experiments (N = 363), we investigated the relation between specific if-then action plans worded to activate simulations of elbow flexion versus extension movements and actual elbow flexion versus extension movements in a subsequent, ostensibly unrelated categorization task. As expected, linking a critical stimulus to intended actions that implied elbow flexion movements (e.g., grabbing it for consumption) subsequently facilitated elbow flexion movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. However, linking a critical stimulus to actions that implied elbow extension movements (e.g., pointing at it) subsequently facilitated elbow extension movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. Thus, minor differences (i.e., exchanging the words "point at" with "grab") in verbally formulated action plans (i.e., conscious thought) had systematic consequences on subsequent actions. The question of how conscious thought can induce stimulus-triggered action is illuminated by the provided theoretical framework and the respective empirical evidence, facilitating the understanding of behavioral automaticity and human agency. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jul 13 2017

Fingerprint

Elbow
Simulation
Conscious
Planning
Brain
Stimulus

Keywords

  • Automaticity
  • Control
  • Grounded cognition
  • Human agency
  • Planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

Cite this

From Conscious Thought to Automatic Action : A Simulation Account of Action Planning. / Martiny-Huenger, Torsten; Martiny, Sarah E.; Parks-Stamm, Elizabeth J.; Pfeiffer, Elisa; Gollwitzer, Peter.

In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 13.07.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Martiny-Huenger, Torsten ; Martiny, Sarah E. ; Parks-Stamm, Elizabeth J. ; Pfeiffer, Elisa ; Gollwitzer, Peter. / From Conscious Thought to Automatic Action : A Simulation Account of Action Planning. In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 2017.
@article{8bffddbafa7e4b7b8723d6ffc6798f42,
title = "From Conscious Thought to Automatic Action: A Simulation Account of Action Planning",
abstract = "We provide a theoretical framework and empirical evidence for how verbally planning an action creates direct perception-action links and behavioral automaticity. We argue that planning actions in an if (situation)-then (action) format induces sensorimotor simulations (i.e., activity patterns reenacting the event in the sensory and motor brain areas) of the anticipated situation and the intended action. Due to their temporal overlap, these activity patterns become linked. Whenever the previously simulated situation is encountered, the previously simulated action is partially reactivated through spreading activation and thus more likely to be executed. In 4 experiments (N = 363), we investigated the relation between specific if-then action plans worded to activate simulations of elbow flexion versus extension movements and actual elbow flexion versus extension movements in a subsequent, ostensibly unrelated categorization task. As expected, linking a critical stimulus to intended actions that implied elbow flexion movements (e.g., grabbing it for consumption) subsequently facilitated elbow flexion movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. However, linking a critical stimulus to actions that implied elbow extension movements (e.g., pointing at it) subsequently facilitated elbow extension movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. Thus, minor differences (i.e., exchanging the words {"}point at{"} with {"}grab{"}) in verbally formulated action plans (i.e., conscious thought) had systematic consequences on subsequent actions. The question of how conscious thought can induce stimulus-triggered action is illuminated by the provided theoretical framework and the respective empirical evidence, facilitating the understanding of behavioral automaticity and human agency. (PsycINFO Database Record",
keywords = "Automaticity, Control, Grounded cognition, Human agency, Planning",
author = "Torsten Martiny-Huenger and Martiny, {Sarah E.} and Parks-Stamm, {Elizabeth J.} and Elisa Pfeiffer and Peter Gollwitzer",
year = "2017",
month = "7",
day = "13",
doi = "10.1037/xge0000344",
language = "English (US)",
journal = "Journal of Experimental Psychology: General",
issn = "0096-3445",
publisher = "American Psychological Association Inc.",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - From Conscious Thought to Automatic Action

T2 - A Simulation Account of Action Planning

AU - Martiny-Huenger, Torsten

AU - Martiny, Sarah E.

AU - Parks-Stamm, Elizabeth J.

AU - Pfeiffer, Elisa

AU - Gollwitzer, Peter

PY - 2017/7/13

Y1 - 2017/7/13

N2 - We provide a theoretical framework and empirical evidence for how verbally planning an action creates direct perception-action links and behavioral automaticity. We argue that planning actions in an if (situation)-then (action) format induces sensorimotor simulations (i.e., activity patterns reenacting the event in the sensory and motor brain areas) of the anticipated situation and the intended action. Due to their temporal overlap, these activity patterns become linked. Whenever the previously simulated situation is encountered, the previously simulated action is partially reactivated through spreading activation and thus more likely to be executed. In 4 experiments (N = 363), we investigated the relation between specific if-then action plans worded to activate simulations of elbow flexion versus extension movements and actual elbow flexion versus extension movements in a subsequent, ostensibly unrelated categorization task. As expected, linking a critical stimulus to intended actions that implied elbow flexion movements (e.g., grabbing it for consumption) subsequently facilitated elbow flexion movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. However, linking a critical stimulus to actions that implied elbow extension movements (e.g., pointing at it) subsequently facilitated elbow extension movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. Thus, minor differences (i.e., exchanging the words "point at" with "grab") in verbally formulated action plans (i.e., conscious thought) had systematic consequences on subsequent actions. The question of how conscious thought can induce stimulus-triggered action is illuminated by the provided theoretical framework and the respective empirical evidence, facilitating the understanding of behavioral automaticity and human agency. (PsycINFO Database Record

AB - We provide a theoretical framework and empirical evidence for how verbally planning an action creates direct perception-action links and behavioral automaticity. We argue that planning actions in an if (situation)-then (action) format induces sensorimotor simulations (i.e., activity patterns reenacting the event in the sensory and motor brain areas) of the anticipated situation and the intended action. Due to their temporal overlap, these activity patterns become linked. Whenever the previously simulated situation is encountered, the previously simulated action is partially reactivated through spreading activation and thus more likely to be executed. In 4 experiments (N = 363), we investigated the relation between specific if-then action plans worded to activate simulations of elbow flexion versus extension movements and actual elbow flexion versus extension movements in a subsequent, ostensibly unrelated categorization task. As expected, linking a critical stimulus to intended actions that implied elbow flexion movements (e.g., grabbing it for consumption) subsequently facilitated elbow flexion movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. However, linking a critical stimulus to actions that implied elbow extension movements (e.g., pointing at it) subsequently facilitated elbow extension movements upon encountering the critical stimulus. Thus, minor differences (i.e., exchanging the words "point at" with "grab") in verbally formulated action plans (i.e., conscious thought) had systematic consequences on subsequent actions. The question of how conscious thought can induce stimulus-triggered action is illuminated by the provided theoretical framework and the respective empirical evidence, facilitating the understanding of behavioral automaticity and human agency. (PsycINFO Database Record

KW - Automaticity

KW - Control

KW - Grounded cognition

KW - Human agency

KW - Planning

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85023203803&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85023203803&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1037/xge0000344

DO - 10.1037/xge0000344

M3 - Article

JO - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

JF - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

SN - 0096-3445

ER -