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Sequential learning is a type of learning in which one part of a task is learnt before the next

Serial organization is fundamental to human behaviour. Most of our day-to-day activities involve sequencing of actions to achieve a desired goal, from sequencing words to form a sentence, to driving an automobile or following directions on a roadmap, to making a recipe following instructions in a cooking manual (see Sun and Giles 2001). Lashley (1951) has highlighted the ubiquity of sequentiality or serial order in our behaviour

“ ... the coordination of leg movements in insects, the song of birds, the control of trotting and pacing in a gaited horse, the rat running the maze, the architect designing a house, the carpenter sawing a board present a problem of sequences of action ... ”

In a classic experiment, Yarbus (1967) demonstrated that though the subjects viewing portraits report to apprehend the portrait as a whole, their eye movements successively fixated at the most informative parts of the image. These observations suggest that underlying an apparently parallel process of face perception, a serial oculomotor process is concealed.

It is a common observation that when a skill is being acquired, we are more attentive in the initial phase, but after repeated practice, the skill becomes nearly automatic (Fitts, 1964), this is also known as unconscious competence. We can then concentrate on learning a new action while performing previously learned actions skillfully. Thus it appears that a neural code or representation for the learnt skill is created in our brain, which is usually called procedural memory. The procedural memory encodes procedures or algorithms rather than facts.

There are many other areas of application for sequence learning. Research work on sequence learning has been going on in several disciplines such as artificial intelligence, neural networks, cognitive science (sequence learning aspects in skill acquisition), and engineering[1]. How humans learn sequential procedures has been a long-standing research problem in cognitive science and currently is a major topic in neuroscience.

See also


  1. Ron Sun and C. Lee Giles (Aug 2001). "Sequence Learning: From Recognition and Prediction to Sequential Decision Making". Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  • K. S. Lashley ”The Problem of Serial order in Behavior”. In Cerebral Mechanisms in Behavior (ed. Jeffress L. A.), New York: Wiley. pp. 112-136, 1951.
  • A. L. Yarbus, ”Eye movements during perception of complex objects”. In Eye Movements and Vision (ed. Riggs, L. A.), Plenum Press, New York, chapter VII, pp. 171-196, 1967.
  • Fitts, P. M. (1964). Perceptual motor skill learning. In A. W. Melton (Ed.), Categories of human learning (pp. 243–285). New York: Academic Press.
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