Automatic Behavior: Its Social Embedding and Individual Consequences

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Automatic behavior, that is, the non-conscious activation of perceiver behavior by social category priming, has undergone considerable development in the recent years. While initial effects pointed to often rather surprising effects that could be characterized as imitation of the behavior of the social category itself, current research unfolds a much more complex picture. Not only imitative behavior but, contrasting, also response behavior is getting activated. Response behavior is fundamentally different from imitation and contrast and denotes behavior that is directed toward the social category out of the action ecology of the perceiver. Furthermore, boundary conditions have been established and could reveal that motivation (goals) and social context modulate the selection of specific automatic responses. Most recent findings reveal that social category priming embedded in context also modulates visual attention patterns pertaining to means functional for the response behavior. Similar to the increased complexity of findings, the proposed underlying explanatory models have developed in comprehensiveness. Taken together, automatic behavior now has to be seen as a valid form of social influence, and its benefits and pitfalls are further to be investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-700
Number of pages12
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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