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Instruction effects on randomness in sequence generation

Guseva, M., Bogler, C., Allefeld, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1037-2735 & Haynes, J-D. (2023). Instruction effects on randomness in sequence generation. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, article number 1113654. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1113654


Randomness is a fundamental property of human behavior. It occurs both in the form of intrinsic random variability, say when repetitions of a task yield slightly different behavioral outcomes, or in the form of explicit randomness, say when a person tries to avoid being predicted in a game of rock, paper and scissors. Randomness has frequently been studied using random sequence generation tasks (RSG). A key finding has been that humans are poor at deliberately producing random behavior. At the same time, it has been shown that people might be better randomizers if randomness is only an implicit (rather than an explicit) requirement of the task. We therefore hypothesized that randomization performance might vary with the exact instructions with which randomness is elicited. To test this, we acquired data from a large online sample (n = 388), where every participant made 1,000 binary choices based on one of the following instructions: choose either randomly, freely, irregularly, according to an imaginary coin toss or perform a perceptual guessing task. Our results show significant differences in randomness between the conditions as quantified by conditional entropy and estimated Markov order. The randomization scores were highest in the conditions where people were asked to be irregular or mentally simulate a random event (coin toss) thus yielding recommendations for future studies on randomization behavior.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 Guseva, Bogler, Allefeld and Haynes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: random number generation, sequence generation, randomness, sequential dependency, free choice, entropy, strategy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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