An action slip is when, due to a failure of attention, you accidentally perform an action out of context or out of sequence. For example, you pour milk on your toast or you forget to add the tea bag when making a cup of tea. Making action slips is common. Lately I have realised that I also make ‘second order’ action slips. These are where I perform the correct action, or the correct sequence of actions, but in the state of absent-mindedness whereby I might be more likely to make an action slip. I catch myself in the middle of some mundane and appropriate behaviour and with a start think to myself “Oh no what have I done!”. Usually this is during sudden, irreversable actions which would be bad if done out of context, such as urinating on things (ok for toilets, bad for most other things), getting into the shower and turning it on full (ok if clothes off, bad otherwise), pouring boiling water on things (ok for making hot drinks, bad for most foods, pets and family members). Of course with this kind of action I have, so far, always managed to do the right thing, but something about the consequences, and my lack of attention, causes a brief moment of panic. A chasm of intentional vertigo opens up as I ask myself exactly what I’m doing and how I know it is the right thing to do.
File under ‘perils of metacognition’?