Help, I need somebody: Automatic action and inaction

C. Neil Macrae, Lucy Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Citations (Scopus)


The goal of behavioral control is of central importance in everyday life. When the production of an unwanted action can have deleterious consequences for perceivers, there is considerable virtue in the possession of a mental system that edits its behavioral products to meet the demands of a challenging world. Accordingly, in an attempt to extend existing work on this topic (e.g., Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996), in the present research we investigated the extent to which the automatic elicitation of action may be moderated by features of the task environment and perceivers' goal states. Our findings were unequivocal. When inhibitory cues were present in the environment (i.e., Experiment 1), or perceivers had a competing goal in mind (i.e., Experiment 2), automatic behavioral priming effects were eliminated. We consider the implications of our findings for recent treatments of behavioral priming and action control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-417
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


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