Definition of automatism in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ɔːˈtɒmətɪz(ə)m/


[mass noun] Psychiatry
1The performance of actions without conscious thought or intention: diabetic patients who commit crimes while hypoglycaemic may be able to plead automatism
More example sentences
  • This problem highlights the difficulty in delineating the dividing line between automatism and insanity, or, as it is often termed non-insane automatism and insane automatism.
  • In any case, automatism itself, though perhaps a kind of bypassing of the will, does not seem to me to represent necessarily an impairment of the agent's volitional capacities.
  • Thus, where the malfunctioning of the mind is caused by an external factor, the legal classification is automatism rather than insanity; where it is arises from an internal cause, the classification is insanity.
1.1 [count noun] An action performed unconsciously or involuntarily: automatisms occurred in all four epileptic syndromes
More example sentences
  • He sums up his discussion of automatisms (automatic writing and so on) by saying that they ‘represent a class of instances in which apparent mental causation fails.’
  • Motor automatisms were the ‘movement of limbs or hand or tongue, initiated by an inner motor impulse beyond the conscious will’.
  • Six patients described an aura, and three were noted to have automatisms.
1.2 Art The avoidance of conscious intention in producing works of art, especially by using mechanical techniques or subconscious associations.
Example sentences
  • Despite these developments, the decline of automatism as a Surrealist technique can be perceived as early as 1930, the date of the Second Surrealist Manifesto.
  • His esthetic interests ran to European Surrealism, and with William Baziotes and Jackson Pollock he began to experiment with nontraditional ways of making art, including automatism.
  • Like many midcentury abstractionists, he was influenced by the Surrealist idea of automatism, which he incorporated into his early works.


Mid 19th century: from French automatisme, from automate 'automaton', from Greek automatos 'acting of itself' (see automaton).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: au¦toma|tism

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.