Quote for the Day – The Overwhelming Automaticity of Being

“Habit is thus a second nature, or rather, as the Duke of Wellington said, it is ‘ten times nature,’–at any rate as regards its importance in adult life; for the acquired habits of our training have by that time inhibited or strangled most of the natural impulsive tendencies which were originally there. Ninety-nine hundredths or, possibly, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of our activity is purely automatic and habitual, from our rising in the morning to our lying down each night. Our dressing and undressing, our eating and drinking, our greetings and partings, our hat-raisings and giving way for ladies to precede, nay, even most of the forms of our common speech, are things of a type so fixed by repetition as almost to be classed as reflex actions. To each sort of impression we have an automatic, ready-made response. My very words to you now are an example of what I mean; for having already lectured upon habit and printed a chapter about it in a book, and read the latter when in print, I find my tongue inevitably falling into its old phrases and repeating almost literally what I said before.”

~William James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology: and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals



Filed under Books, Philosophy, Psychology

2 responses to “Quote for the Day – The Overwhelming Automaticity of Being

  1. ThePhilosophers'Lounge

    We should like to make “change” our nature.

  2. amanimal

    Hmm, presaging Bargh and Chartrand by 100 years – guess my ignorance is showing.

    “Natural selection pushes for nonconscious processes. Fast and automatic is the ticket for success. Conscious processes are expensive: They require not only a lot of time, but also a lot of memory. Unconscious processes, on the other hand, are fast and rule-driven.”

    Michael Gazzaniga, ”Who’s In Charge: Free Will and the Science of the Brain’

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