Variables that influence the generation of random sequences: an update

Percept Mot Skills. 1997 Apr;84(2):627-61. doi: 10.2466/pms.1997.84.2.627.


This article updates Tune's 1964 review of variables influencing human subjects' attempts at generating random sequences of alternatives. It also covers aspects not included in the original review such as randomization behavior by patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Relevant work from animal research (spontaneous alternation paradigm) is considered as well. It is conjectured that Tune's explanation of sequential nonrandomness in terms of a limited capacity of short-term memory can no longer be maintained. Rather, interdependence among consecutive choices is considered a consequence of an organism's natural susceptibility to interference. Random generation is thus a complex action which demands complete suppression of any rule-governed behavior. It possibly relies on functions of the frontal lobes but cannot otherwise be "localized" to restricted regions of the brain. Possible developments in the field are briefly discussed, both with respect to basic experiments regarding the nature of behavioral nonrandomness and to potential applications of random-generation tasks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / psychology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Memory
  • Mental Processes*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neuropsychology
  • Parapsychology
  • Periodicity
  • Random Allocation
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Task Performance and Analysis