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).
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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 between the men’s and women’s records was 12.41% in 1936, 11.36% in 1956, and 9.27% in 1976.”
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Participant athleticism, age and gender are only three factors that play into how fast a person reacts to a stimulus. For the present study it was hypothesized that in a group of undergraduate college students with both male and female participants that are of the same age and around the same athletic ability that the reaction time would be significantly faster when the stimulus was audible and would be slower if the stimulus was visual. The purpose for this specific experiment is to test 1) reaction time when an auditory stimulus is given and 2) reaction time when a visual stimulus is given. Method
Participants were between the ages of 18 and 22 with one outlier. The mean age of participants was 19.5. There were 23 participants. They were 95% Caucasian, with six males and 17 were females. It was a convenience sample, from the Anderson University 2012 General Psychology Laboratory class.
This experiment was conducted using a Visual Choice Reaction Time Apparatus from the Lafayette Instrument Company, model no. 63035A and a Response Panel, model no. 63035. The response panel has five buttons; four of the buttons corresponded to lights (red, white, green, and blue) and the fifth button corresponded to an audible buzzer tone. The only buttons that were used from the apparatus were the white light and the buzzer buttons; the other buttons were covered. The time was measured by a stop clock which was also created by the Lafayette Instrument Company, model no. 54030. Respondent’s times were recorded on a data sheet.
Before the experiment, participants were told to choose a time to come in and participate. Four participants entered the room at one time; two experimenters and two respondents. The respondent was instructed to stand in front of the apparatus with their entire dominant hand resting on the table. They were also told to place their dominant hand behind a tape mark, with all fingers and the palm on the table. After each trial they were instructed to return their hand to the taped position. The experimenter would choose what set of five audible and five visual cues to use, but would also tell the participant which set would be used.
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After one set of five stimuli, the opposite (visual or auditory) set was selected until two auditory and two visual sets were completed. The experimenters and respondents then switched roles after the respondents had finished their sets. Every fifteen minutes two new experimenters and two new participants replaced the previous participants until all trials had been completed. The respondent’s times were recorded on the data sheet to a thousandth of a second and entered into Excel program, ensuring accuracy.
There was not a significant difference between the visual and auditory stimuli. This is interesting because previous studies on reaction time have found that the brain reacts quicker to an auditory stimulus than a visual stimulus. Our data did not match this data. Kemp (1973) found that an auditory stimulus takes only 8-10 msec to reach the brain and Marshall, Talbot, and Ades (1943) found that a visual stimulus takes longer to reach the brain (20-40 msec).
It was possible that no difference was found because the participant could hear the experimenter press the button for both auditory and visual conditions; thereby giving an auditory warning cue. There were also multiple recorders who recorded data in different ways. Because the experimenter was also the participant and vice versa there may have been an experimenter bias. Finally, the button on the stop clock malfunctioned at times that could account for some outliers. Future studies should address these limitations and reexamine the hypothesis.
Engel, B. T., P. R. Thorne, and R. E. Quilter. 1972. On the relationship among sex, age, response mode, cardiac cycle phase, breathing cycle phase, and simple reaction time. Journal of Gerontology, 27, 456-460. Guttmann, A. (1991).
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Women’s sports: A history. New York: Columbia University Press. Kashihara, K. and Nakahara Y. (2005).
Short-term effect of physical exercise at lactate threshold on choice reaction time. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 100(2), 275-281. Kemp, B. J. (1973).
Reaction time of young and elderly subjects in relation to perceptual deprivation and signal-on versus signal-off condition. Developmental Psychology, 8, 268-272. Levitt, S. and Gutin B. (1971).
Multiple choice reaction time and movement time during physical exertion. Research Quarterly, 42, 405-410. Marshall, W. H., Talbot S. A,, & Ades H.W. (1943).
Cortical response of the anaesthesized cat to gross photic and electrical afferent stimulation. Journal of Nerophysiology, 6, 1-15. Ratcliff, R., Love, J., Thompson, C. A., & Opher, J. E. (2012).
Children are not like older adults: A diffusion model analysis of developmental changes in speeded responses. Child Development, 83(1), 367-381. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01683.x Silverman, I. W. (2006).
Sex differences in simple visual reaction time: A historical meta-analysis (sports events).
Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 54(1-2), 57-69. Sjoberg, H. (1975).
Relations between heart rate, reaction speed, and subjective effort at different work loads on a bicycle ergometer. Journal of Human Stress, 1, 21-27. Welford, A. T. (1980).
Choice reaction time: Basic concepts. In A. T. Welford (Ed.), Reaction Times. Academic Press, New York, pp. 73-128.