Mechanisms for the generation and regulation of sequential behaviour

Philosophical Psychology 16 (3):389 – 416 (2003)
Abstract
A critical aspect of much human behaviour is the generation and regulation of sequential activities. Such behaviour is seen in both naturalistic settings such as routine action and language production and laboratory tasks such as serial recall and many reaction time experiments. There are a variety of computational mechanisms that may support the generation and regulation of sequential behaviours, ranging from those underlying Turing machines to those employed by recurrent connectionist networks. This paper surveys a range of such mechanisms, together with a range of empirical phenomena related to human sequential behaviour. It is argued that the empirical phenomena pose difficulties for most sequencing mechanisms, but that converging evidence from behavioural flexibility, error data arising from when the system is stressed or when it is damaged following brain injury, and between-trial effects in reaction time tasks, point to a hybrid symbolic activation-based mechanism for the generation and regulation of sequential behaviour. Some implications of this view for the nature of mental computation are highlighted.
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