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Psychol Res. 2004 Dec;69(1-2):124-37. Epub 2004 May 25.

Sequence learning and sequential effects.

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Cognitive and Physiological Psychology, University of Brussels (VUB), Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.


In a serial reaction time (RT) task with a probabilistic stimulus sequence, the length of the response-to-stimulus interval (RSI) and the sequence complexity was manipulated to investigate the relationship between sequence learning and sequential effects in serial RT tasks. Sequential effects refer to the influence of previous stimulus presentations on the RT to the current stimulus. Sequence learning is stimulus-transition specific and is demonstrated as the difference between practiced and unpracticed sequences within an interpolated random block of trials. There is a clear parallel between sequence learning and specific changes in sequential effect in the short RSI conditions, suggesting that a common mechanism may lie at the basis of sequence learning and automatic facilitation, which is responsible for sequential effects at short RSI. Importantly, the changes in sequential effects accompanying sequence learning are the same as those observed with practice in random serial RT tasks, indicating that the learning process underlying sequence learning is the same as in random tasks.

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