The Organization of Sequential Behavior

  • Stephen B. Fountain
  • Douglas G. Wallace
  • James D. Rowan


For decades, beginning with Lashley’s (1951) celebrated paper or even earlier with the work of Ebbinghaus and others (Hunter, 1920; Skinner, 1934), sequential learning has repeatedly aroused debate over the fundamental nature of learning, memory, and representation in humans and animals. In recent years, debate has centered on whether nonhuman animals can use nonassociative symbolic processes such as rule-induction to learn about the structure of patterned sequences (“serial patterns”) of events. The work by Hulse and colleagues on rats’ serial-pattern learning (SPL) of food reward magnitude in runways, in particular, supported a Rule-Learning (RL) theory (e.g., Hulse & Campbell, 1975; Hulse & Dorsky, 1977; Hulse, 1978; Hulse & Dorsky, 1979; Fountain & Hulse, 1981; Fountain, Evensen, & Hulse, 1983). The RL theory proposed that rats learned some representation of the abstract rules that described organized sequences (Fountain, 1986; Roitblat, Pologe, & Scopatz, 1983; Wathen & Roberts, 1994). The implication was that rats did not have to rely on chaining or remote associations alone to master sequences. Later work in our laboratory involved a somewhat different SPL paradigm employing patterns of stimuli drawn from another stimulus dimension (viz., a spatial dimension rather than food reward magnitude). This work also supported the RL view of serial-pattern learning in both rats and mice (e.g., Fountain, 1990; Fountain & Rowan, 1995b; Fountain & Rowan, 1995a).


Serial Position Animal Behavior Process Food Quantity Reward Magnitude Serial Learning 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen B. Fountain
    • 1
  • Douglas G. Wallace
    • 1
  • James D. Rowan
    • 1
  1. 1.Kent State UniversityUSA

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