Powerful instructions: Automaticity without practice

Nachshon Meiran, Baptist Liefooghe, Jan de Houwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Automaticity is widely assumed to reflect hardwired tendencies or the outcome of prior practice. Recent research on automatic effects of instruction (AEIs), however, indicates that newly instructed tasks can become immediately automatic without ever having been practiced. This research shows that the representations underlying AEIs need not always be directly linked to an overt response but must be highly accessible for future use and involve bidirectional links between stimuli and responses. AEIs were also found to decrease with increasing intellectual abilities among young adults and from childhood to young adulthood, possibly because of improved abstract cognitive control. We argue that AEIs are based on the unintentional retrieval of episodic memories that encode instructions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-514
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Automaticity
  • Instructions
  • Rapid instructed task learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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