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Conceptual Analysis ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02542


  • 1Psychology Cognitive Psychology Unit, Leiden University, Netherlands

Everyday thinking and scientific theorizing about human action control are equally driven by the apparently obvious contrast between will and habit or, in their more modern disguise: intentional and automatic processes, and model-based and model-free action planning. And yet, no comprehensive category system to systematically tell truly willed from merely habitual actions is available. As I argue, this is because the contrast is ill-conceived, because almost every single action is both willed and habitual, intentional and automatic, and model-based and model-free, simply because will and habit (and their successors) do not refer to alternative modes or pathways of action control but rather to different phases of action planning. I further discuss three basic misconceptions about action control that binary theorizing relies on: the assumption that intentional processes compete with automatic processes (rather than the former setting the stage for the latter), the assumption that action control is targeting processes (rather than representations of action outcomes), and the assumption that people follow only one goal at a time (rather than multiple goals). I conclude that binary theorizing fails to account for action control and should thus be replaced by a more integrative view.

Keywords: Action control, dual-route models, goal, Automaticity & Control, Intention

Received: 03 May 2019; Accepted: 28 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Hommel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Bernhard Hommel, Leiden University, Psychology Cognitive Psychology Unit, Leiden, 2333 XZ, Netherlands,