New research reveals that many people send text messages without thinking about it, a phenomenon that involves “automaticity,” which refers to a “limited conscious attention or awareness of one’s behavior.”
Texting, according to the study, is prone to automaticity. As one of the researchers put it in a University of Michigan press release, “The attention required by text messaging is intermittent, focused and visual, and at the same time requires individuals to divide attention between the immediate physical space and an imagined social space. It is easily embedded in daily activities that fail to fully engage individuals' attention with novel stimuli, such as driving or walking, while drawing attention away from important aspects of those activities."
Automaticity in cellphone use also dovetails with the nature of walking, a task that rarely, if at all, receives much thought. Indeed, a survey of over 900 adults and college students revealed that respondents were often texting without thinking as they walked, more so than when they were behind the wheel.
Knowing about — and avoiding — automaticity can help individuals resist the instinct to go on autopilot.
For more details about the study, read the press release from the University of Michigan.