Sequence learning in infancy: the independent contributions of conditional probability and pair frequency information


Stuart Marcovitch, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA; e-mail: or David J. Lewkowicz, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, 33431-0991, USA; e-mail:


The ability to perceive sequences is fundamental to cognition. Previous studies have shown that infants can learn visual sequences as early as 2 months of age and it has been suggested that this ability is mediated by sensitivity to conditional probability information. Typically, conditional probability information has covaried with frequency information in these studies, raising the possibility that each type of information may have contributed independently to sequence learning. The current study explicitly investigated the independent contribution of each type of information. We habituated 2.5-, 4.5-, and 8.5-month-old infants to a sequence of looming visual shapes whose ordering was defined independently by specific conditional probability relations among pair elements and by the frequency of occurrence of such pairs. During test trials, we tested infants’ sensitivity to each type of information and found that both types of information independently influenced sequence learning by 4.5 months of age.