Scheduling and programming of rapid finger sequences: tests and elaborations of the hierarchical editor model

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1987 May;13(2):193-203. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.13.2.193.


Is a response sequence executed only after the sequence has been fully programmed, as discrete processing models predict, or does execution begin before programming has been completed, as continuous processing models predict? To address this issue, we tested a discrete processing model of human motor performance, the hierarchical editor model of Rosenbaum, Inhoff, and Gordon (1984). This model was developed to account for data from experiments in which people perform one of two possible finger sequences, depending on the identity of a choice signal. The model assumes a hierarchically organized motor program that is first "edited" to resolve any uncertainties and is then "executed" to produce the desired responses. Three experiments reported here show that, contrary to the model's predictions and some well-known motor programming results (Sternberg, Monsell, Knoll, & Wright, 1978), the reaction time to begin a response sequence actually decreases with the length of the sequence under some choice conditions. We account for these results with a model that allows execution to begin while editing is still in progress. A key assumption in the model is that subjects schedule execution so that means and variances of interresponse times are minimized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time*
  • Time Perception