Although executive control and automatic behavior have often been considered separate and distinct processes, there is strong emerging and convergent evidence that they may in fact be intricately interlinked. In this review, we draw together evidence showing that visual stimuli cause automatic and unconscious motor activation, and how this in turn has implications for executive control. We discuss object affordances, alien limb syndrome, the visual grasp reflex, subliminal priming, and subliminal triggering of attentional orienting. Consideration of these findings suggests automatic motor activation might form an intrinsic part of all behavior, rather than being categorically different from voluntary actions.
Keywords: action, cognitive control, response inhibition, unconscious, volition
Citation: McBride J, Boy F, Husain M and Sumner P (2012) Automatic motor activation in the executive control of action. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:82. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00082
Received: 31 January 2012; Paper pending published: 25 February 2012;
Accepted: 22 March 2012; Published online: 24 April 2012.
Edited by:Nicola de Pisapia, University of Trento, Italy
Reviewed by:William C. Gaetz, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, USA
Copyright: © 2012 McBride, Boy, Husain and Sumner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence: Jennifer McBride, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Institute of Neurology, University College London, Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AR, UK. e-mail: email@example.com