Summary: in press
Article type: Advanced Review
Automaticity and Multiple Memory Systems
F. Gregory Ashby & Matthew J. Crossley
Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106 USA
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.
After long periods of practice, almost any skill can
be executed quickly, accurately, and with little or no