Effect of sequence length on executing familiar keying sequences: lasting segmentation and preparation?

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The author assessed the mechanisms underlying skilled production of keying sequences in the discrete sequence-production task by examining the effect of sequence length on mean element execution rate (i.e., the rate effect). To that end, participants (N = 9) practiced fixed movement sequences consisting of 2, 4, and 6 key presses for a total of 588 trials per sequence. In the subsequent test phase, the sequences were executed with and without a verbal short-term memory task in both simple and choice reaction time (RT) paradigms. The rate effect was obtained in the discrete sequence-production task--including the typical quadratic increase in sequence execution time (SET, which excludes RT) with sequence length. The rate effect resulted primarily from 6-key sequences that included 1 or 2 relatively slow elements at individually different serial positions. Slowing of the depression of the 2nd response key (R[sub2]) in the 2-key sequence reduced the rate effect in the memory task condition, and faster execution of the 1 st few elements in each sequence amplified the rate effect in simple RT. Last, the time to respond to random cues increased with position, suggesting that the mechanisms that underlie the rate effect in new sequences and in familiar sequences are different. The data were in line with the notion that coding of longer keying sequences involves motor chunks for the individual sequence segments and information on how those motor chunks are to be concatenated
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-354
JournalJournal of motor behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrete sequence production
  • Motor skills
  • Movement sequences
  • Rate effect


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