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Mental chronometry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Redirected from Reaction time) For Ian Lowe's book, see Reaction Time (book). "Reaction time" redirects here. For the biological mechanism, see Reflex. Mental chronometry is the use of response time in perceptual-motor tasks to infer the content, duration, and temporal sequencing of cognitive operations. Mental chronometry is one of the core paradigms of experimental and cognitive psychology, and has found application in various disciplines including cognitive psychophysiology/cognitive neuroscience and behavioral neuroscience to elucidate mechanisms underlying cognitive processing. Mental chronometry is studied using the measurements of reaction time (RT). Reaction time is the elapsed time between the presentation of a sensory stimulus and the subsequent behavioral response. In psychometric psychology it is considered to be an index of speed of processing.[1] That is, it indicates how fast the thinker can execute the mental operations needed by the task at hand. In turn, speed of processing is considered an index of processing efficiency. The behavioral response is typically a button press but can also be an eye movement, a vocal response, or some other observable behavior.

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1 Types 2 The evolution of mental chronometry methodology
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2.1 Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī 2.2 Galton and differential psychology 2.3 Donders' experiment 2.4 Hick's Law 2.5 Sternberg’s memory-scanning task 2.6 Shepard and Metzler’s mental rotation task 2.7 Sentence-picture verification 2.8 Mental chronometry and models of memory 2.9 Posner’s letter matching studies

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3 Mental chronometry and cognitive development 4 Mental chronometry and cognitive ability 5 Application of mental chronometry in biological psychology/cognitive neuroscience 6 See also

According to Muhammad Iqbal. To control for this. Due to momentary attentional lapses. the subject may have to press the button when a green light appears and not respond when a blue light appears. respectively [3] Interestingly. from which a measure of the 'typical' response time can be calculated. For example. between the stimulation of the organ and consciousness of the perception an interval of time must elapse. He was the first to use . Recognition or Go/No-Go reaction time tasks require that the subject press a button when one stimulus type appears and withhold a response when another stimulus type appears. corresponding to the transmission of stimulus for some distance along the nerves. or greater in magnitude on some dimension of interest. but also. For example.000 starts they can achieve 109 ms and 121 ms. the Persian scientist Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (973-1048) was the first person to describe the concept of reaction time: "Not only is every sensation attended this by a corresponding change localized in the senseorgan. For example. the subject might be asked to press one button if a red light appears and a different button if a yellow light appears. which demands a certain time. a suitable lowering of the force threshold on the starting blocks for women would eliminate the sex difference. Discrimination reaction time involves comparing pairs of simultaneously presented visual displays and then pressing one of two buttons according to which display appears brighter. researchers typically require a subject to perform multiple trials. and alternative approaches (such as modeling the entire response time distribution) are often more appropriate. The Jensen Box is an example of an instrument designed to measure choice reaction time. and approximately 190 milliseconds to detect visual stimulus.[2] The mean reaction times for sprinters at the Beijing Olympics were 166 ms for males and 189 ms for females. heavier."[5] [edit] Galton and differential psychology Sir Francis Galton is typically credited as the founder of differential psychology. Usually the focus in research is on reaction time. a subject might be asked to press a button as soon as a light or sound appears. Mean RT for college-age individuals is about 160 milliseconds to detect an auditory stimulus.] Types Response time is the sum of reaction time plus movement time. There are four basic means of measuring RT given different operational conditions during which a subject is to provide a desired response: Simple reaction time is the time required for an observer to respond to the presence of a stimulus. that study concluded that longer female reaction times are an artifact of the measurement method used. there is a considerable amount of variability in an individual's response time. which seeks to determine and explain the mental differences between individuals. Choice reaction time (CRT) tasks require distinct responses for each possible class of stimulus.[4] [edit] The evolution of mental chronometry methodology [edit] Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī Psychologists have developed and refined mental chronometry for over the past 100 years. Taking the mean of the raw response time is rarely an effective method of characterizing the typical response time. but in one out of 1. which does not tend to follow a normal (Gaussian) distribution. longer.

In Hick's experiment.rigorous reaction time tests with the express intention of determining averages and ranges of individual differences in mental and behavioral traits in humans. it was not without its drawbacks. and that choice reaction time is longer than both. This assumption . the reaction time is found to be a function of the binary logarithm of the .[6] Although Donders' work paved the way for future research in mental chronometry tests. which now have the statistical tools to use them more accurately. Despite this. and he built various machines to test different measures of this. including reaction time to visual and auditory stimuli. This method provides a way to investigate the cognitive processes underlying simple perceptualmotor tasks.[1] [edit] Donders' experiment The first scientist to measure reaction time in the laboratory was Franciscus Donders (1869). Picture from the ‘Historical Introduction to Cognitive Psychology’ webpage.000 men.[1] [edit] Hick's Law Main article: Hick's Law W. women and children from the London public. for example.that the incremental effect on RT was strictly additive . Hick (1952) devised a CRT experiment which presented a series of nine tests in which there are n equally possible choices. Donders' insertion method was based on the assumption that inserting a particular complicating requirement into an RT paradigm would not affect the other components of the test. which showed that the insertions were able to interact with other portions of the RT paradigm. Donders also devised a subtraction method to analyze the time it took for mental operations to take place. His tests involved a selection of over 10. Galton hypothesized that differences in intelligence would be reflected in variation of sensory discrimination and speed of response to stimuli. Donders found that simple reaction time is shorter than recognition reaction time. The experiment measured the subject's reaction time based on number of possible choices during any given trial.[2] Donders (1868’s): method of subtraction. which are defined as the quantity of information that reduces uncertainty by half in information theory. it is possible to calculate how much time is needed to make the connection. or the "uncertainty" involved in which reaction stimulus would appear next. Donders' theories are still of scientific interest and his ideas are still being used in certain areas of psychology. Uncertainty is measured in "bits". Hick showed that the individual's reaction time increased by a constant amount as a function of available choices.was not able to hold up to later experimental tests. and formed the basis of subsequent developments.[6] By subtracting simple reaction time from choice reaction time. E.

[11] Cooper and Shepard (1973) presented a letter or digit that was either normal or mirror-reversed. The authors concluded that the subjects mentally rotate the image the shortest distance to upright. false negative (FN). The subject then answered as quickly as possible whether the probe was in the previous set of digits or not. This finding supported the idea that a subject did a serial exhaustive search through memory rather than a serial selfterminating search. If there were only 2 items in the initial set of digits then the number of processes would be reduced by 2. The data from this study found that for each additional item added to the set of digits that the subject had in STM about 38 milliseconds were added to the response time of the subject. and then decreases again until it reaches 360 degrees.[12] [edit] Sentence-picture verification Mental chronometry has been a useful tool in identifying some of the processes associated with understanding a sentence. and then judge whether it is normal or mirror-reversed. This type of research typically revolves around the differences in processing 4 types of sentences: true affirmative (TA). The idea is that as the size of the set of digits increases the number of processes that need to be completed before a decision can be made increases as well. The size of the initial set of digits was the independent variable and the reaction time of the subject was the dependent variable. Reaction time to determine whether they were identical or not was a linear function of the angular difference between their orientation. called the additive factor method. whether in the picture plane or in depth. and n is the number of alternatives. and presented either upright or at angles of rotation in units of 60 degrees. [1] Hick's Law has some interesting modern applications in marketing. and true negative (TN). Response time increased roughly linearly as the orientation of the letter deviated from upright (0 degrees) to inverted (180 degrees). The type of sentence determines how many processes need to be performed before a decision can be made. So if the subject has 4 items in short-term memory (STM). where restaurant menus and web interfaces (among other things) take advantage of its principles in striving to achieve speed and ease of use for the consumer. then after encoding the information obtained from the probe stimulus the subject will need to compare the probe to each of the 4 items in memory and then make a decision.number of available choices (n). According to the data from Clark and Chase (1972) and Just and . This phenomenon is called "Hick's Law" and is said to be a measure of the "rate of gain of information. The subject then decides if the sentence matches the picture or does not.[7] The Jensen Box is a more recent application of Hick's Law. false affirmative (FA)." The law is usually expressed by the formula RT = a + blog 2(n + 1). A picture can be presented with an associated sentence that falls into one of these 4 categories.[10] [edit] Shepard and Metzler’s mental rotation task Main article: Mental rotation Shepard and Metzler (1971) presented a pair of three-dimensional shapes that were identical or mirror-image versions of one another.[9] Sternberg (1969) developed a much-improved method for dividing reaction time into successive or serial stages. where a and b are constants representing the intercept and slope of the function.[8] [edit] Sternberg’s memory-scanning task Sternberg (1966) devised an experiment wherein subjects were told to remember a set of unique digits in short-term memory. They concluded that the observers performed a constant-rate mental rotation to align the two objects so they could be compared. The subject had to identify which type of stimulus it was: normal or mirror-reversed. Subjects were then given a probe stimulus in the form of a digit from 0-9.

various measures of speed of processing were used to examine changes in the speed of information processing as a function of age. Kail (1991) showed that speed of processing increases exponentially from early childhood to early adulthood. When doing the name match task subjects were forced to add a cognitive step before making a decision. . a subject will reliably answer that a robin is a bird more quickly than he will answer that an ostrich is a bird despite these questions accessing the same two levels in memory. and other developing vocal and motor skills that develop quickly in growing children. The TLC model proposed by Collins and Quillian (1969) had a hierarchical structure indicating that recall speed in memory should be based on the number of levels in memory traversed in order to find the necessary information. The task involving the most cognitive processes was the rule match task in which subjects had to determine whether the two letters presented both were vowels or not vowels. using various methods of measuring speed of processing.Carpenter (1971).g. Mouyi.[19] Once reaching early maturity. But the experimental results did not agree with this model. The simplest task was the physical match task. FN. the TA sentences are the simplest and take the least time. 2000). For example. Demetriou and colleagues. 1975). This led to the development of spreading activation models of memory (e. reaching for things.[13][14] [edit] Mental chronometry and models of memory Hierarchical network models of memory were largely discarded due to some findings related to mental chronometry. in which subjects were shown a pair of letters and had to identify whether the two letters were physically identical or not. and then compare those before deciding. cognitive slowing is considered a good index of broader changes in the functioning of the brain and intelligence. and make a decision. Specifically. repeating words. compare them to each other..[18] Studies of reaction times in young children of various ages are consistent with common observations of children engaged in activities not typically associated with chronometry. The physical match task was the most simple because mentally subjects had to encode the letters. Collins & Loftus.[17] [edit] Mental chronometry and cognitive development Main article: Neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development In recent years there has been extensive research using mental chronometry methods for the study of cognitive development.[20] In fact. In the rule based task they had to also categorize the letters as either vowels or consonants before making their choice. wherein links in memory are not organized hierarchically but by importance instead. and TN sentences.[1] This includes speed of counting. They had to search memory for the names of the letters.[15][16] [edit] Posner’s letter matching studies Posner (1978) used a series of letter-matching studies to measure the mental processing time of several tasks associated with recognition of a pair of letters. The next task was the name match task where subjects had to identify whether two letters had the same name. & Spanoudis. The time taken to perform the rule match task was longer than the name match task which was longer than the physical match task. Using the subtraction method experimenters were able to determine the approximate amount of time that it took for subjects to perform each of the cognitive processes associated with each of these tasks. than FA. there is then a long period of stability until speed of processing begins declining from middle age to senility (Salthouse. showed that it is closely associated with changes in working memory and thought (Demetriou.

[24] Standard deviations of reaction times have been found to be more strongly correlated with measures of general intelligence (g) than mean reaction times. and this deterioration is systematically associated with changes in many other cognitive processes. as long as reaction time is tightly controlled. Several studies have reported association between simple reaction time and intelligence of around (r=−. such as executive functions. relating the slope of reaction time increases to the complexity of decision required (measured in units of uncertainty popularised by Claude Shannon as the basis of information theory). is one of the pivotal factors of cognitive development. and inferential processes.[23] Much of the theoretical interest in reaction time was driven by Hick's Law. Research into this link between mental speed and general intelligence (perhaps first proposed by Charles Spearman) was re-popularised by Arthur Jensen.49).[21] During senescence. This promised to link intelligence directly to the resolution of information even in very basic information tasks.[21] In the theory of Andreas Demetriou. RT deteriorates (as does fluid intelligence). The strength of the RT-IQ association is a subject of research. [edit] Mental chronometry and cognitive ability Researchers have reported medium-sized correlations between reaction time and measures of intelligence: There is thus a tendency for individuals with higher IQ to be faster on reaction time tests. The reaction times of low-g individuals are more spread-out than those of high-g individuals. These relations are extensively discussed in the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development.[22] one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development.[25] The cause of the relationship is unclear. or the integrity of neuronal processes. It may reflect more efficient information processing. with a tendency for larger associations between choice reaction time and intelligence (r=−. There is some support for a link between the slope of the reaction time curve and intelligence.31). working memory. as indicated by decreasing reaction time. change in speed of processing with age. and the "Choice reaction Apparatus" associated with his name became a common standard tool in reaction time-IQ research. [edit] Application of mental chronometry in biological psychology/cognitive neuroscience .2009). better attentional control.

These finding can be connected to Donders’ idea of the subtractive method of the sensory and motor stages involved in reaction tasks. these methods were used extensively in humans: researchers recorded the electrical potentials in human brain using scalp electrodes while a reaction tasks was being conducted using digital computers. the use of a micro electrode recording of single neurons in anaesthetized monkeys allowed research to look at physiological process in the brain and supported this idea that people encode information serially. What they found was that there was a connection between the observed electrical potentials with motor and sensory stages for information processing. distance from the test number (orange). notably PET and fMRI. 2005). The way that mental chronometry is utilized is by performing tasks based on reaction time which measures through neuroimaging the parts of the brain which are involved in the cognitive processes. For example. the images obtained with PET have attracted great interest from other branches of neuroscience. The regions represented correspond to those showing effects of notation used for the numbers (pink and hatched).[26] In the 1950s. development of signal processing tool for EEG translated into a revival of research using this technique to assess the timing and the speed of mental processes. In the 1970s and early 1980s. In the 1960s. increasingly popularizing mental chronometry among a more elaborate breed of scientists in recent years. and errors (purple). researchers found in the recorded scalp potentials that the frontal cortex was being activated in association with motor activity. With the advent of functional neuroimaging techniques. For example. Although psycho(physio)logists have been using electroencephalographic measurements for decades before the conception of PET and fMRI. choice of hand (red).Regions of the Brain Involved in a Number Comparison Task Derived from EEG and fMRI Studies. Picture from the article: ‘Timing the Brain: Mental Chronometry as a Tool in Neuroscience’. high-profile research showed how reaction time on a given trial correlated with the . psychologists started to modify their mental chronometry paradigms for functional imaging (Posner.

Many studies have shown that there is a small number of brain areas which are widely spread out which are involved in performing these cognitive tasks. and then checking for error in the response. techniques were used to measure activity through electrical event-related potentials in a study when subjects were asked to identify if a digit that was presented was above or below five. selecting a response. neuroimaging experiments allowed researchers to detect the activity in localized brain areas by injecting radionuclides and using positron emission tomography (PET) to detect them.[29] This fMRI image presents the specific locations where these stages are occurring in the brain while performing this simple mental chronometry task. In the 1980s. comparing against the stored representation for five. with the invention of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Also. According to Sternberg’s additive theory. [edit] See also .latency of the P300 wave[27] or how the timecourse of the EEG reflected the sequence of cognitive processes involved in perceptual processing.[28] Then. each of the stages involved in performing this task includes: encoding. fMRI was used which have detected the precise brain areas that are active during mental chronometry tasks.