Reaction Time

Topics: Reaction time, Sensory system, Computer Pages: 13 (4789 words) Published: October 27, 2008
“Reaction Time” is the interval of time between the application of a stimulus and the detection of a response and has been thought to differ based upon the effects of modality and warning signals. In the “Reaction Time” experiment a total of 24 students from the University of Cincinnati participated in an experiment consisting of two sensory modalities, audition and vision, which were combined with two levels of warning signal status. The two levels of warning signal status were signal onset and signal offset. This provided a total of four experimental conditions and is described as a two by two repeated measures design. The independent variables included both modality and warning signals, while the dependent variable was reaction time. From the results of the experiment, significant evidence in differences of reaction time could be related to both modality and reaction. Furthermore, the experiment showed significant evidence that auditory stimuli accompanied with a signal onset provided faster reaction times compared to visual stimuli accompanied without a warning signal.

The Effects of Warning Signals on Reaction Time to Auditory and Visual Stimuli
Reaction Time has been studied for numerous years in efforts to understand the effects modality and warning signals have on a response stimulus. The basis of “Reaction Time” was to examine and test the effects both warning signals and auditory/visual stimuli have on response time as found in prior research findings. Past research, including that of Woodworth and Schlosberg (1954), Elliot (1968), and Kohfeld (1971) found that different sensory stimuli resulted in different reaction times, while other researchers, including Foley and Dewis (1960), Blackman (1966), and Niemi (1981), examined the effects of foreperiods and expectancy on reaction time. More specifically, “Reaction Time” was an experiment conducted to specifically examine the discrepancies in time with regards to both auditory and visual stimuli (modality) via the underlying processes organisms experience and to examine the effects warning signals have on time delay.

In efforts to understand the relationships between reaction time to auditory and visual stimuli, one must first establish what reaction time is and then examine the processes involved in audition and visual perception. First, reaction time is the interval of time between the application of a stimulus and the detection of a response, in which the response is followed by any reaction to the stimulus. The delay of time reflects the time taken by several mechanisms of the organism to process information. Such mechanisms include components like: sensory encoding, stimulus identification, response selection and response execution. With this kept in mind, a process so complex can be influenced by several factors including: the nature of warning signals that precede the stimulus to be detected, and the sensory modality of stimuli. To provide a clearer picture of what is happening during this process one can envision how this may be demonstrated in real life. First, a person touches hot water streaming from the faucet and the nerve endings from the finger send signals to the cerebellum by means of the spinal cord. Here, the brain interprets the sense of touch as hot and hurting and therefore sends signals via arm muscles to move the arm away. In this example, the reaction time is the difference between the organism touching the hot water and time it took to pull the arm away. The response stimulus, the signal that indicates an organism should respond, is the cerebellum because it is indicating that there is an unpleasant feeling and the arm should move away. Thus, the cerebellum undergoes sensory encoding; it deciphers the signal from the nerves of the finger as a sensory phenomenon (in this case touch). The cerebellum identifies the stimulus as pain (stimulus identification) and selects a response stimulus such as pulling the arm...

References: Blackman, R. (1966). The effect of the orienting reaction on disjunctive reaction time.
Elliott, E. T. (1968). Simple visual and simple auditory reaction time: A comparison.
Psychonomic Science, 2, 489-490.
Foley, P. J., & Dewis, E. V. T. (1960). Pacing Rate and Warning Signal in Serial
Simple Reaction Time
Kohfeld, D.L. (1971). Simple reaction time as a function of stimulus intensity in
decibels of light and sound
Niemi, P., & Naatanen, R. (1981). Foreperiod and simple reaction time. Psychological
Bulletin, 89, 133-162.
Woodworth, R. S., & Scholsberg, H. (1954). Experimental psychology (rev. ed.). New
York: Holt.
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