27 Mart 2013 Çarşamba

Automatic Processes and Speech

Language perception is a semi-automatic process.  When we listen some one’s speech we understand key words first and put them on the premises of a context.  The rest of the sentence or phrase comes automaticly.  We do not try to understand every and each word we hear.

Speaking fast does not mean to hurry everything you say but to slow at the critical points and then throw down the rest at an incredible pace.  Increasing the speed in any mental process means the conversion of the process from a controlled one to an automatic one.

Listening a fast speech in this style is also easy to keep track of because the perception process will also get automatic and automatic processes are easier than controlled ones.

If I allude once more to my previous notes[1,2], some jobs that require continuous and heavy attention for a long duration may hurt the employees’ natural mental balance of controlled vs automatic processing.  In this case, people begin to speak slowly as well as moving slowly.  Feeling difficulties in speech can be observed for long durations even after this type of service.

Using/studying more than 3 to 5 languages concurrently may also hurt the natural automaticity of speech.


[1]  Kendiliğinden Süreçlerin Bilinçle Etkileşimi

[2] On the Interaction of Automatic Processes with Consciousness

18 Mart 2013 Pazartesi

On the Interaction of Automatic Processes with Consciousness

It is not possible, or even desirable, to remain in focal attention one hundred percent of the time. Many activities, like driving a car, for example, require constantly shifting attention for the sake of safety. An individual's concentration and focus will naturally be interrupted by automatic attention throughout the day, not just because it is necessary to notice what is happening in the surrounding environment, but also to give the brain a rest.

I believe, large systems operators such as ATCOs, ATC engineers are faced with the risk of continuously concentrating for long durations which puts them at the risk of losing the natural balance of their minds, the balance between automatic processing and controlled – conscious processing.

 Some relevant material is given below to facilitate the interested readers.



[1] Schneider, W, Shiffrin, RM, ‘Controlled and automatic human information processing: I. Detection, search, and attention’, 1977, Journal Psychological Review , Vol.84, p. 1-66, ISSN 0033295.

A 2-process theory of human information processing is proposed and applied to detection, search, and attention phenomena. Automatic processing is activation of a learned sequence of elements in long-term memory that is initiated by appropriate inputs and then proceeds automatically-without S control, without stressing the capacity limitations of the system, and without necessarily demanding attention. Controlled processing is a temporary activation of a sequence of elements that can be set up quickly and easily but requires attention, is capacity-limited (usually serial in nature), and is  controlled by the S.
[2]  Michael I. Posner* and Mary K. Rothbart, ‘Attention, self-regulation and consciousness’, (Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA and Sackler Institute for Human Brain Development,Cornell Medical College, NewYork, NY 10021, USA)

Consciousness has many aspects. These include awareness of the world, feelings of control over one's behaviour and mental state (volition), and the notion of a continuing self. Focal (executive) attention is used to control details of our awareness and is thus closely related to volition. Experiments suggest an integrated network of neural areas involved in executive attention. This network is associated with our voluntary ability to select among competing items, to correct error and to regulate our emotions
[3] Definition of Consciousness – Merriam – Webster
1a: the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself
b: the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact
c: awareness; especially: concern for some social or political cause
2: the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought : mind
3: the totality of conscious states of an individual
4: the normal state of conscious life consciousness>
5: the upper level of mental life of which the person is aware as contrasted with unconscious processes
[4] Unconscious mind - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious refers to that part of mental functioning of which subjects make themselves unaware. The psychoanalytic unconscious is similar to but not precisely the same as the popular notion of the subconscious.  For psychoanalysis, the unconscious does not include all of what is simply not conscious - it does not include e.g. motor skills - but rather, only what is actively repressed from conscious thought.    In the psychoanalytic view, the unconscious is a force that can only be recognized by its effects - it expresses itself in the symptom.
[5] Definition of Unconscious - Answers.com
1.       Lacking awareness and the capacity for sensory perception; not conscious.
2.       Temporarily lacking consciousness.
3.       Occurring in the absence of conscious awareness or thought: unconscious resentment; unconscious fears.
4.       Without conscious control; involuntary or unintended: an unconscious mannerism.
[6] Staffan Sohlberg, The Philosophy Of Freedom - A. Unconscious Functioning, http://www.philosophyoffreedom.com/node/693

Concepts of the unconscious
We cannot be conscious of everything we do and how we do it. For example, tying our shoelaces, walking, speaking, and driving are all guided to a large degree by unconscious processing, which broad domain is also denoted by terms such as automaticity or implicit memory. The reason we have extensive unconscious capabilities has to do with efficiency. The very complex informational environments that the brain is required to handle are beyond the capacity of consciousness, which can contain only one or a few things at a time

Definitions of unconsciousness
unconscious means contents or processes that we cannot report being aware of, with automatic referring to processes and subliminal to external stimuli. Included here are contents and processes we cannot in principle become aware of (often termed nonconsciuos), such as how the visual system builds perceptions, as well as those we can become aware of, such as a stressful situation we have momentarily forgotten.
[7] Implicit Memory - Wikipedia

Implicit memory is a type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of these previous experiences.[1] Evidence for implicit memory arises in priming, a process whereby subjects are measured by how they have improved their performance on tasks for which they have been subconsciously prepared.[2][3] Implicit memory also leads to the illusion-of-truth effect, which suggests that subjects are more likely to rate as true those statements that they have already heard, regardless of their veracity.[4] In daily life, people rely on implicit memory every day in the form of procedural memory, the type of memory that allows people to remember how to tie their shoes or ride a bicycle without consciously thinking about these activities.
[8] Attention - New World Encyclopedia

Understanding Attention
Attention is the selection of some incoming information for further processing. … Attention may be differentiated according to its status as "overt" versus "covert." Overt attention is the act of directing sense organs towards a stimulus source. Covert attention is the act of mentally focusing on one of several possible sensory stimuli. Covert attention is thought to be a neural process that enhances the signal from a particular part of the sensory panorama. …

Voluntary vs. Automatic Attention
Attention can be directed either voluntarily, also referred to as endogenous control, or automatically, which is also called exogenous or reflexive attention. While endogenous control involves one choosing of their own volition to direct their attention, exogenous control occurs when an external object or event, for example, a bee flying by, grabs attention away from the book one is reading, and attracts it involuntarily.
[9] LANA M. TRICKy*, JAMES T. ENNSz, JESSICA MILLSz and JOHN VAVRIKx, ‘Paying attention behind the wheel: a framework for studying the roleof attention in driving’,Theor. Issues in Ergon. Sci. September–October 2004, vol. 5, no. 5, 385–424, (yDepartment of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, zUniversity of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada,xInsurance Corporation of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

2.3.1. Automatic vs. controlled processes. Automatic processes involve selection without awareness. These processes are effortless, fast, and can be carried out concurrently with other processes without compromising performance. Once automatic processes are initiated, they are difficult to modify. Also, automatic processes typically do not produce changes in declarative long-term memory. Consequently, a person may drive home from work on ‘auto-pilot’ and have no conscious memory of the trip.

In contrast, controlled processes involve selection with awareness. These are conscious processes, but they are also laborious and slow, and it is difficult to carry out several controlled processes at once. Controlled  processes can be started, stopped, or modified at will, and can produce conscious changes in long term memory through learning. With practice, some controlled processes may even become automatic.
2.3.2. Exogenous vs. endogenous processes. Exogenous selection occurs as a result of the way humans are built and it is initiated by the presence of specific stimulus configurations. In this case, external stimuli seem to trigger selection (it is exogenous), but the reason these stimuli produce this effect is because of the way the nervous system is built. Specifically, the nervous system is structured to respond to certain stimuli preferentially, so that there is a continuum of stimulus salience, with some types of stimuli more likely to receive exogenous selection than others.  In general, when a person is in an unfamiliar environment, and thus has no specific expectations, exogenous processing is dominant. Similarly, if a person has no specific goals in a familiar environment, exogenous processing dominates.  Exogenous processing is easily confused with bottom-up or stimulus-driven processing, but it is not the same thing. When we refer to exogenous selection we mean something that is ‘hard wired’. In contrast, bottom-up or stimulus-driven processing may also occur as a result of extended practice or learning, which are the result of internal (or endogenous) factors. For example, when a person repeatedly carries out a deliberate intention, after a while the response becomes so over-learned that it occurs automatically, and it may seem that the stimulus alone is ‘driving’ the behavior. Selection has been triggered by the stimulus (bottom-up) independent of any intentional goals (top-down). Nonetheless, this would not constitute exogenous selection in our sense because selection was not ‘hard wired’; the association resulted from repeated conscious intentions to carry out a goal (Theeuwes 1991). Some processes are bottom-up but not exogenous.  Endogenous selection results from what people know about an environment and what they want to achieve. People actively search the environment for information relevant to specific goals or intentions; they perform these tasks in ways that are consistent with expectations and previous learning. Expectancies may act as a form of ‘perceptual set’ causing people to look for specific objects at certain locations.  A perceptual set can be advantageous because it directs viewers to the goal-relevant information in a scene, and thus facilitates accomplishment of goals. An example would be looking for the exit ramp sign on a familiar freeway. Endogenous selection helps drivers react more rapidly, as occurs when they anticipate the need to brake (Johansson and Rumar 1971, Van der Hulst et al. 1999).  While endogenous selection can facilitate performance, it can also produce errors when drivers miss pertinent information because it is unexpected or does not pertain to current goals (Hills 1980, Rumar 1990).
2.4. Four modes of attentional performance
By combining automatic and controlled processing with exogenous and endogenous selection, it is possible to derive four modes of performance relevant to the study of attention and driving. The first, automatic-exogenous, can be thought of as the collection of all reflexes that are initiated by stimuli. The second, automatic-endogenous, corresponds to processing that is habitual. The third, controlled-exogenous, corresponds to a mode of performance that occurs when a person’s only goal is exploration. The fourth, controlled-endogenous, corresponds to deliberate goaldriven behavior.
These two types of process are reflexive (automatic-exogenous) and habitual (automaticendogenous).  There are a  number of important differences between reflex and habit. First, though both are triggered by  particular stimuli, these triggers are established in different ways. Reflexes are innately ‘hard wired’ into the system, whereas habits are automatic because a particular goal or intention has been repeatedly carried out. As a result, reflexes are common to all whereas habits are idiosyncratic, based on a given individual’s specific learning experiences. Second, reflexes emerge on a developmental timetable and are stable once acquired, whereas habits can be formed at any time, and can also be replaced or fade at any time due to lack of practice or new learning.
Some processes are more automatic than others in the sense that they are initiated more quickly, require less effort, are more likely to be evoked unintentionally in a given situation, and are thus more difficult to bring under deliberate control. In such a continuum, reflexes retain their position near the extreme end on the automaticity continuum, whereas habits change their level of automaticity based on the frequency with which they are practiced  ...
[10] Walter Schneider, Jason M. Chein,‘Controlled & automatic processing: behavior, theory, and biological mechanisms’, Cognitive Science 27 (2003) 525–559 (Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 3939 O’Hara St., Pittsburgh, PA 15221, USA)

Abstract: This paper provides an overview of developments in a dual processing theory of automatic and controlled processing that began with the empirical and theoretical work described by Schneider and Shiffrin (1977) and Shiffrin and Schneider (1977) over a quarter century ago. A review of relevant empirical findings suggests that there is a set of core behavioral phenomena reflecting differences between controlled and automatic processing that must be addressed by a successful theory. These phenomena relate to: consistency in training, serial versus parallel processing, level of effort, robustness to stressors, degree of control, effects on long-term memory, and priority encoding.

2. Definition of automatic and controlled processing
The basic nature of automatic and controlled processing was laid out in our earlier papers. In Schneider and Shiffrin (1977), an automatic process was defined as the activation of a sequence of nodes that “nearly always becomes active in response to a particular input configuration,” and that “is activated automatically without the necessity for active control or attention by the subject” (p. 2).
 In general, automatic processes “operate through a relatively permanent set of associative connections . . . and require an appreciable amount of consistent training to develop fully” (Schneider&Shiffrin, 1977, p. 2). An automatic attention response is a special type of automatic process that directs attention automatically to a target stimulus (Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977). 
In contrast to automatic processes, Schneider and Shiffrin (1977, pp. 2–3) defined a controlled process as “a temporary sequence of nodes activated under control of, and through attention by, the subject.” Furthermore, controlled processes are “tightly capacity limited, but the costs of this capacity limitation are balanced by the benefits deriving from the ease with which such processes may be set up, altered, and applied in novel situations for which automatic sequences have never been learned.”
[11]  Josh McDermott, ‘Workspace Theory: Consciousness Explained?’  - The Harvard Brain Harvard university undergraduate Journal of Neuroscience.

 Baars proposes that consciousness is the result of a Global Workspace in the brain that distributes information to the huge number of parallel unconscious processors that form the rest of the brain
many unconscious processes underlie ordinary perception and cognition. (By an unconscious process, I mean a process that takes place in the brain of which we are unaware
Baars treats the brain as a large group of separable, very specialized systems that are unconscious much of the time that they operate. At least some of these processes can, one by one, become conscious, and the successive outputs of these processes constitute conscious experience. Significant, though, is the idea that only one process can be conscious at one instant of time. In other words, consciousness is a serial phenomenon.
Baars' second claim about consciousness is that it has internal consistency, a property not shared by the collection of unconscious processes in the brain. Baars cites as an example of this property the experience of viewing a Necker cube, an optical illusion which we can consciously see in one of two different orientations. The two views of the cube can "flip" back and forth, but we cannot entertain both of them simultaneously
that a huge variety of things can be experienced consciously, but that by definition, an unconscious specialized processor can perform but a limited range of tasks
Another property of consciousness is its ability to relate what seem to be any two conscious experiences to each other. The best example of this is classical conditioning, where virtually any conscious stimulus may serve as a signal for virtually any other event. This relating cannot occur if the experiences are unconscious. Baars cites a study showing that Pavlovian association cannot occur if the signal stimulus has been repeated to the point of habituation (when the stimulus ceases to be consciously experienced). (Razran, 1961)
A fifth contrast is that conscious experiences are what Baars terms "context-sensitive," while representations processed unconsciously are not. Context-sensitivity is defined by Baars as "the way in which conscious events are shaped by unconscious factors." (Baars, 1988, p 79) Our conscious experiences are constantly affected by unconscious assumptions. Unconscious events are, in contrast, not influenced by such contextual assumptions ...

Finally, there are the contrasts of inefficient, error-prone conscious processes with efficient, relatively error-free unconscious processes. These can be illustrated with any task that a person learns. While unlearned, a task has to be performed consciously, at which point it is done slowly and with frequent errors. Once learned , the task is unconscious, and is performed with comparative speed and accuracy.
There is limited evidence that there is a delay involved in some types of conscious events, and that much unconscious preprocessing goes on prior to the conscious experience of something (Libet, 1978). Thus it is conceivable that error detection has nothing at all to do with consciousness.
[12]  B. Miller, Edited By: Andrew Jones, wiseGEEK

Focal attention refers to a type of attention in which the individual is deliberately, consciously focused on a certain thing to the exclusion of surrounding images or noises. Automatic attention occurs when an individual's attention is drawn by something; for instance, a loud noise might cause someone to look up or lose focus, and is in many cases a response that cannot be controlled. Focal attention is intense deliberate concentration, and is a skill that can be practiced
It is not possible, or even desirable, to remain in focal attention one hundred percent of the time. Many activities, like driving a car, for example, require constantly shifting attention for the sake of safety. An individual's concentration and focus will naturally be interrupted by automatic attention throughout the day, not just because it is necessary to notice what is happening in the surrounding environment, but also to give the brain a rest.

[13] Kiefer, Markus;  Front Hum Neurosci. 2012; 6: 61., “Executive control over unconscious cognition: attentional sensitization of unconscious information processing”, Published online 2012 March 23. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00061 PMCID: PMC3311241

[14] Jennifer McBride1*, Frédéric Boy2, Masud Husain1 and Petroc Sumner2, “ Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, “Automatic motor activation in the executive control of action” 1 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK 2 School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK