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[aw-tom-uh-tiz-uh m] /ɔˈtɒm əˌtɪz əm/
the action or condition of being automatic; mechanical or involuntary action.
Philosophy. the doctrine that all activities of animals, or of humans and animals, are entirely controlled by physical or physiological causes in which consciousness takes no part.
Physiology. the involuntary functioning of an organic process, especially muscular, without apparent neural stimulation.
  1. the performance of an act or actions without the performer's awareness or conscious volition.
  2. such an act, as sleepwalking.
a method of producing pictorial art, as paintings and collages, associated chiefly with the dadaists and surrealists, in which the artist strives to allow the impulses of the unconscious to guide the hand in matters of line, color, and structure without the interference of conscious choice.
Origin of automatism
First recorded in 1880-85, automatism is from the Greek word automatismós a happening of itself. See automaton, -ism
Related forms
automatist, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for automatism


the state or quality of being automatic; mechanical or involuntary action
(law, philosophy) the explanation of an action, or of action in general, as determined by the physiological states of the individual, admissible in law as a defence when the physiological state is involuntary, as in sleepwalking
(psychol) the performance of actions, such as sleepwalking, without conscious knowledge or control
the suspension of consciousness sought or achieved by certain artists and writers to allow free flow of uncensored thoughts
Derived Forms
automatist, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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automatism in Medicine

automatism au·tom·a·tism (ô-tŏm'ə-tĭz'əm)

  1. The involuntary functioning of an organ or other body structure that is not under conscious control, such as the beating of the heart or the dilation of the pupil of the eye.

  2. The reflexive action of a body part.

  3. An act performed without intent or conscious exercise of the will, often without realization of its occurrence, as for certain types of epilepsy.

  4. A condition in which one is consciously or unconsciously, but involuntarily, compelled to the performance of certain acts. Also called telergy.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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