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Can intention override the “automatic pilot”?

Faculty Advisor




reaching, online control, visuomotor control, posterior parietal

Abstract (summary)

Previous research has suggested that the visuomotor system possesses an “automatic pilot” which allows people to make rapid online movement corrections in response to sudden changes in target position. Importantly, the automatic pilot has been shown to operate in the absence of visual awareness, and even under circumstances in which people are explicitly asked not to correct their ongoing movement. In the current study, we investigated the extent to which the automatic pilot could be “disengaged” by explicitly instructing participants to ignore the target jump (i.e., “NO-GO”), by manipulating the order in which the two tasks were completed (i.e., either “GO” or NO-GO first), and by manipulating the proportion of trials in which the target jumped. The results indicated that participants made fewer corrections in response to the target jump when they were asked not to correct their movement (i.e. NO-GO), and when they completed the NO-GO task prior to the task in which they were asked to correct their movement when the target jumped (i.e., the GO task). However, increasing the proportion of jumping targets had only a minimal influence on performance. Critically, participants still made a significant number of unintended corrections (i.e., errors) in the NO-GO tasks, even under explicit instructions not to correct their movement if the target jumped. Overall these data suggest that, while the automatic pilot can be influenced to some degree by top-down strategies and previous experience, the pre-potent response to correct an ongoing movement cannot be completely disengaged.

Publication Information

Striemer, C., Yukovsky, J. & Goodale, M. (2010). Can intention override the ‘automatic pilot'? Experimental Brain Research, 202(3), 623-632.


Item Type

Article Post-Print




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