Front. Hum. Neurosci., 19 March 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00082

Control of automated behavior: insights from the discrete sequence production task

  • 1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium
  • 2Department of Cognitive Psychology and Ergonomics, University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands

Work with the discrete sequence production (DSP) task has provided a substantial literature on discrete sequencing skill over the last decades. The purpose of the current article is to provide a comprehensive overview of this literature and of the theoretical progress that it has prompted. We start with a description of the DSP task and the phenomena that are typically observed with it. Then we propose a cognitive model, the dual processor model (DPM), which explains performance of (skilled) discrete key-press sequences. Key features of this model are the distinction between a cognitive processor and a motor system (i.e., motor buffer and motor processor), the interplay between these two processing systems, and the possibility to execute familiar sequences in two different execution modes. We further discuss how this model relates to several related sequence skill research paradigms and models, and we outline outstanding questions for future research throughout the paper. We conclude by sketching a tentative neural implementation of the DPM.

Keywords: motor skill, sequence learning, automated behavior

Citation: Abrahamse EL, Ruitenberg MFL, de Kleine E and Verwey WB (2013) Control of automated behavior: insights from the discrete sequence production task. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:82. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00082

Received: 30 October 2012; Accepted: 01 March 2013;
Published online: 19 March 2013.

Edited by:

Rachael D. Seidler, University of Michigan, USA

Reviewed by:

Lara Boyd, University of British Columbia, Canada
Carol Seger, Colorado State University, USA
David Rosenbaum, Pennsylvania State University, USA

Copyright © 2013 Abrahamse, Ruitenberg, de Kleine and Verwey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Elger L. Abrahamse, Department of Experimental Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Ghent, Henri Dunantlaan 2, Ghent 9000, Belgium. e-mail:

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