Research on Reaction Time

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The Effect of Stimulus Type on Reaction Time
Katelin Wagoner
Anderson University

Abstract
Previous studies on reaction time have examined the effects of different kinds of stimuli; this experiment specifically tests reaction time in response to auditory and visual stimuli. The common belief is that an auditory stimulus is faster than visual stimuli. There were 23 participants; 95% were Caucasian, with six males and 17 females. This experiment required participants to respond to either an auditory or visual cue by pressing a button. The data was measured by way of a stop clock. Using a two-tailed dependent t –test to analyze the data, it was found that the critical t was greater than the t obtained resulting in the retention of the null hypothesis. Our findings did not match the findings of previous studies. It was possible that no difference was found because of limitations such as, the participant could hear the experimenter press the button for both auditory and visual conditions; thereby giving a warning cue.

Reaction time and types of studies.
Testing of human reaction time has been done for quite some time. Reaction time is described as the time it takes for the brain to process the information and to then react to the object, sound, light, etc stimuli. Two methods by which to test reaction time are with a visual stimulus such as a light and an auditory stimulus such as a buzzer. Prior studies are done to test the speed of a participant’s reaction time, which means to test how quickly they respond in some way to the stimuli. The common belief is that a response to an auditory signal would be faster than that of a visual signal. Using as an example, the sports of swimming and track, the official does not flash a light signaling that the athletes can start; he shoots a gun to make an audible sound. Maybe this is the preferred method because an auditory stimulus only takes 8-10 msec to reach the brain (Kemp, 1973), but a visual stimulus takes 20-40 msec (Marshall, Talbot, & Ades 1943).

Speaking on the subject of sports, the level of athleticism of the participant can affect the speed of reaction. Welford (1980) found that physically fit subjects had faster reaction times, and both Levitt and Gutin (1971) and Sjoberg (1975) showed that subjects had the fastest reaction times when they were exercising sufficiently to produce a heart rate of 115 beats per minute. Kashihara and Nakahara (2005) found that vigorous exercise did improve choice reaction time, but only for the first 8 minutes after exercise. 

Age is also relevant to the speed of the participant’s reaction. Welford (1977) wrote that simple reaction time shortens from infancy into the late 20s, then increases slowly until the 50s and 60s, and then lengthens faster as the person gets into his 70s and beyond. Ratcliff, Love, Thompson & Opher (2012) studied grade school, high school and college age students and how quickly they could classify an amount of something on the screen as small or large. His findings agree with what Welford (1980) found 35 years ago, that normally a person’s reaction time decreases as age increases up to the young adult years.

The gender, female or male, of the participant affects their reaction speed on a task. Women and men have different time standards to reach for in swimming and track because there are different times that each sex has the ability to achieve. Engel (1972) reported a reaction time to sound of 227 msec for males and 242 msec for females. But this may be changing as females are competing in sports that are mostly male-dominated. Silverman (2006) reported evidence that the male advantage in visual reaction time is getting smaller (especially outside the US), possibly because more women are participating in driving and fast-action sports. Guttmann (1991) has pointed to similar developments in swimming: “For 15 swimming events, the difference...
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