Hierarchical control of rapid movement sequences

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1983 Feb;9(1):86-102. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.9.1.86.


Are movement sequences executed in a hierarchically controlled fashion? We first state explicitly what such control would entail, and we observe that if a movement sequence is planned hierarchically, that does not imply that its execution is hierarchical. To find evidence for hierarchically controlled execution, we require subjects to perform memorized sequences of finger responses like those used in playing the piano. The error data we obtain are consistent with a hierarchical planning as well as execution model, but the interresponse-time data provide strong support for a hierarchical execution model. We consider three alternatives to the hierarchical execution model and reject them. We also consider the implications of our results for the role of timing in motor programs, the characteristics of motor buffers, and the relations between memory for symbolic and motor information.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Movement*
  • Serial Learning
  • Time Factors