Automatic Thinking

It is commonly said that components of medical diagnosis and decision making, as well as of procedural skills, are executed automatically. This is not always good news. Patients may not appreciate a physician diagnosing their illness without awareness. Physicians, likewise, may not like to view themselves as unconscious automatons. Nonetheless, performing some task components automatically has advantages of speed and efficiency. Indeed, expert performance may depend on this automaticity: Allocating some necessary tasks to unconscious subroutines frees up attention for the more difficult customization of plans accommodating for the particulars of the situation. Automatic thinking may have some disadvantages, however. As it is difficult to reflect on automated thought processes, physicians cannot explain what they are thinking or teach students how to think that way. ...

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