So to summarise this whole discussion, based on text of your
previous message, it seems that you would like to know what
aspect of computer programming is, or ever could be "automatic,
without requiring conscious thought ... or rational processes"

Is that right?

I personally find this an interesting question, and perhaps some 
of the research in my group has a direct bearing on it. But I'd 
have to warn you that it's a very long way from anything that is 
recognisable as conventional computer science or software 
engineering research, and you would be unlikely to receive a lot of 
respect for pursuing that question in a systematic or rigorous 

(By the way, to summarise the couple of dozen experimental
investigations of declarative versus imperative programming
paradigms, which I don't think anyone has done in this discussion
yet despite the fact that it is almost always the agenda that
people are pursuing when they raise this question:

The result found more often than any other is that the need to
use recursion as a control strategy is the greatest single
obstacle to the practical use of most popular declarative
languages. Recursion seems to be considered 'intuitive' by a tiny
number of people, most of whom become professional computer
scientists, mathematicians or philosophers. Recursion is a major
stumbling block to everyone else. As far as I know, in every
study comparing declarative and imperative languages, this
finding dominates all others. Some people have gone on from the
naive initial question, to do nice work on helping people
understand recursion. As far as I remember, Shaaron Ainsworth and
Judith Good both made some progress on that in their respective

Alan Blackwell
Reader in Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge
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