Building a lego wall: Sequential action selection

Amy Arnold, Alan M. Wing, Pia Rotshtein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study draws together two distinct lines of enquiry into the selection and control of sequential action: motor sequence production and action selection in everyday tasks. Participants were asked to build 2 different Lego walls. The walls were designed to have hierarchical structures with shared and dissociated colors and spatial components. Participants built 1 wall at a time, under low and high load cognitive states. Selection times for correctly completed trials were measured using 3-dimensional motion tracking. The paradigm enabled precise measurement of the timing of actions, while using real objects to create an end product. The experiment demonstrated that action selection was slowed at decision boundary points, relative to boundaries where no between-wall decision was required. Decision points also affected selection time prior to the actual selection window. Dual-task conditions increased selection errors. Errors mostly occurred at boundaries between chunks and especially when these required decisions. The data support hierarchical control of sequenced behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-852
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.


  • Discrete sequence production task
  • Hierarchical tasks
  • Motor skill
  • Routine sequential action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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