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Spontaneous activity of tissues or cells.
An act performed with no apparent exercise of will, as in sleepwalking and certain hysterical and epileptic states.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Automatism covers acts that are automatic in so far as they are not consciously produced. This would cover such things as automatic writing, drawing, painting, playing musical instruments, singing, and dancing. Frederick W. H. Myers divided automatism into two main types: motor automatism (active) and sensory automatism (passive). Motor automatism is movement of the tongue, head, or limbs, without guidance by the conscious mind. Sensory automatism is the external presentation of information received clairvoyantly or clairaudiantly. Rosemary Ellen Guiley points out that since ancient time automatisms have been attributed to spirits and to the gods.

The spirit paintings such as those done by the Bangs sisters are examples of automatism in which paintings were produced directly onto the canvases. The music of deceased masters played by Rosemary Brown is another example. Many such occurrences have been viewed by skeptics as examples of extrasensory perception or of secondary personalities coming through and producing information that has been long suppressed and forgotten. However, there are numerous cases of automatic writing which refute this explanation, producing material totally foreign to the automatist. A good example of this is the material that was produced by Pearl Curran, first by Ouija® board and then by automatic writing. Mrs. Curran, a St. Louis housewife, had sparse education and yet produced writings—over a period of more than seven years—which displayed detailed knowledge of life in the mid-1600s, both in England and in the American colonies. This was dictated by the spirit of a seventeenth century English woman named Patience Worth. It has been viewed as one of the finest examples ever of spirit contact.


Buckland, Raymond: Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2004
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992



(1) In physiology, the capacity of an organ or of certain cells for rhythmic, periodic, or aperiodic activity without apparent connection with external, inciting causes. Some examples of automatism are heart contractions, looping of the intestines even when removed from the body, the fluttering of the cilia of certain epithelial cells, and the movement of protoplasm in plant cells. The cause of automatism is either the cyclic character of metabolic processes in the cells or, on a higher level of organization, the activity of systems of stimulated cells—for example, nerve cells located in the cardiac muscle or in the respiratory center of the brain. Another form of automatism, resulting from the strengthening of conditioned reflex connections, is stereotypical activity performed passively and mechanically—for example, the movement of the extremities in walking, the so-called associated movements of various groups of muscles (in the neck, trunk, or extremities), and other motor automatisms.


(2) In psychology, an action performed with the almost complete absence of conscious control. In contradistinction to physiological processes (such as breathing and the working of the heart), which are originally involuntary, psychological actions proceed primarily under conscious control and are only gradually transformed, as learning proceeds, into automatic acts that become the basis for various kinds of habits. On the physiological level, automatism corresponds to the dynamic stereotype.


References in periodicals archive ?
Automatism has come to denote in the criminal law 'conduct of which the doer is not conscious' and therefore not voluntary.
A causal relationship between alleged criminal behaviour and an epileptic automatism is usually characterised by the following features: (2,16,24,25)
Another automatism of photography, carried over to film, was the capturing of time, of a single duration, in the image.
Hoffmann (1776-1822), the nineteenth-century French novelist Honore de Balzac (1799-1850), the late twentieth-century British writer Angela Carter (1940-1992), and the contemporary Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (1964-)--that prominently employ metaphors for mechanistic and biological automatism as vehicles for reflecting upon the nature of the imagination.
Thus, in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972), Carter posits the specifically phallocentric character of the machinelike automatism that Hoffmann and Balzac depict as negating the metamorphic potential of the imagination.
For the trait approach, participants completed the Complex Partial Epileptic Signs (CPES) scale (Persinger & Makarec, 1993), which measures tendencies toward temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which is characterized by dissociative behavior, often including motor automatisms such as involuntary chewing motions.
Because it is possible that psi information might come through other vehicles than motor automatism, such as visual imagery, participants were asked to make separate ratings for impressions that came directly from the board and other impressions.
While he subscribes to the received wisdom that Twombly's beginnings must be seen as a dialogue with Jackson Pollock, hovering between the game preserves of automatism and industrialized spectacle, Leeman also recognizes the importance of Pollock's European counterparts--from Dubuffet to Fautrier, from Burri and Fontana to Manzoni.
Sensory automatisms referred to "inner vision or inner audition externalized into quasi-percepts," and were mainly hallucinations (although also intuitions, impulses, crystal visions, and dreams) that conveyed supernormal knowledge to consciousness.
ABSTRACT: This is the latest in a series of experiments exploring ESP as expressed through motor automatisms, which, if genuine, reflect a dissociative state of consciousness expected to be psi-conducive.
It would also be of interest to expand the search for correlates of parapsychological experiences to other forms of dissociation such as depersonalization experiences, the practice of automatic writing or other motor automatisms, spontaneous trances, conversion symptoms, and the many other experiences that form part of the domain of dissociation.