Reaction Time (RT) Vs.
Movement Time (MT)
This is little out of the left field
as compared to previous articles. However, I feel this
article will provides great information help you to become a
better drag driver. The goal of the drag race is to get to
the finished line in the shortest time. However, human
factor plays a major part in the area of reaction time and
movement. As my background is in human performance and human
development as well as neurological functions. I would like to
share my experience and my expertise to help you shave off few
milliseconds in your Drag Race ET
You can test your reaction time by
using this Virtual
As a major
misconception of reaction time and we hear it all the time.
Especially police officers give you a tailgating ticket for
following the car of you too close. They usually state "You
are following the car in front of you and you do not have enough
time to react". The question is how does he know what is
your reaction time? Let explore some human cognitive
development and research in this area.
Type of Reaction Time.
There are few types of Reaction Time
Simple: reaction time experiments, there is
only one stimulus and one response. 'X at a known location,' 'spot
the dot,' and 'reaction to sound' all measure simple reaction
time. This category of RT is shortest
Recognition: reaction time experiments,
there are some stimuli that should be responded to (the 'memory
set'), and others that should get no response (the 'distracter
set'). There is still only one correct response. 'Symbol
recognition' and 'tone recognition' are both recognition
experiments. In drag race, this recognition reaction time is
more applicable. However, if going to the drag stripe as
your first time, this would be Choice reaction time.
Choice: reaction time experiments, the user
must give a response that corresponds to the stimulus, such as
pressing a key corresponding to a letter if the letter appears on
the screen. The Reaction Time program does not use this
type of experiment because the response is always pressing the
spacebar. This RT is longer
Reaction & Movement Times
A simple reaction times for college-age individuals
have been about 190 ms (0.19 sec) for light stimuli and about 160
ms for sound stimuli. Now, why is light stimuli is about190
ms and 160 for sound stimuli? We will explore this issue
later. However, what is the definition of RT? As I
stated earlier that the police officer gave you a ticket for
tailgate. The true definition of reaction time is: The time
begins with the initiation of the stimuli and the initiation of
the movement. What does this mean? It means when you
send the red light and you let the gas pedal off, the that is
reaction. This reaction process is in the brain and there is
no way that the police officer can measure that objectively.
Movement time however is the initiation of the movement to the end
of movement. Back to the red light example, as you take your
right foot off the gas pedal and start pressing on the brake pedal
until the car completely stop, is define as movement time.
By definition, the police officer would not have a case because
his have the wrong definition. What he is giving a ticket
should be movement time, not reaction time. If you get this
type of ticket. Fight it!
There are many factors that affect you reaction
Type of Stimulus
Many researchers have confirmed that reaction to sound
is faster than reaction to light, with mean auditory reaction
times being 140-160 msec and visual reaction times being 180-200
msec. Perhaps this is because an auditory stimulus only
takes 8-10 msec to reach the brain , but a visual stimulus takes
20-40 msec . Reaction time to touch is intermediate, at 155 msec.
Differences in reaction time between these types of stimuli
persist whether the subject is asked to make a simple response or
a complex response. What I learned about RT & MT few years
ago was that its two physiological process for the auditory
(sound) vs. visual stimuli takes three physiological process.
Therefore, the first thing is to somehow if we can cover the
lights to sound, we would cut about 40 msec off the RT. I
wonder if this would be illegal in the NHRA regulation?
Many researchers found that visual stimuli that are
longer in duration elicit faster reaction times, and auditory
stimuli is shorter. Researchers reported that the weaker the
stimulus (such as a very faint light) is, the longer the reaction
time is. However, after the stimulus gets to a certain strength,
reaction time becomes constant. In other words, the relationship
Many human developmentists found that the
difference between reaction time to light and sound could be
eliminated if a sufficiently high stimulus intensity was used.
Other Factors Influencing
If variation caused by the type of reaction time
experiment, type of stimulus, and stimulus intensity are ignored,
there are still many factors affecting reaction time.
Arousal. One of the most investigated
factors affecting reaction time is 'arousal' or state of
attention, including muscular tension. Reaction time is fastest
with an intermediate level of arousal, and deteriorates when the
subject is either too relaxed or too tense. That is, reaction time
responds to arousal as follows:
Subjects who had to react to an auditory stimulus
by extending their leg had faster reaction times if they performed
a 3 second isometric contraction of the leg muscles prior to the
stimulus. You might expect that the muscle contraction itself
would be faster (because the muscle was warmed up, etc.), but what
was surprising was that the precontraction part of the reaction
time was shorter too. It was as if the isometric contraction
allowed the brain to work faster. Its a bell shaped curve.
Too much or not enough arousal will have negative effect on RT.
Age. 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. Researchers also reported that this age effect was
more marked for complex reaction time tasks. Reaction time also
becomes more variable with age and they speculates on the reason
for slowing reaction time with age. It is not just simple
mechanical factors like the speed of nervous conduction. It may be
the tendency of older people to be more careful and monitor their
responses more thoroughly. When troubled by a distraction, older
people also tend to devote their exclusive attention to one
stimulus, and ignore another stimulus, more completely than
younger people. An early study reported that for teenagers
(15-19) mean reaction times were 187 msec for light stimuli and
158 ms for sound stimuli.
Gender. At the risk of being politically
incorrect, in almost every age group, males have faster reaction
times than females, and female disadvantage is not reduced by
practice reported that mean time to press a key in response to a
light was 220 msec for males and 260 msec for females; for sound
the difference was 190 msec (males) to 200 msec (females). In
comparison many researchers reported a reaction time to sound of
227 msec (male) to 242 msec (female). They also found that
almost all of the male-female difference was accounted for by the
lag between the presentation of the stimulus and the beginning of
muscle contraction. Muscle contraction times were the same for
males and females. Subjects reported that males use a more
complex strategy than females. I wonder why there are more
male race than female. The female are physiologically
Direct vs. Peripheral Vision. Recently we
also noticed that visual stimuli perceived by different portions
of the eye produce different reaction times. The fastest reaction
time comes when a stimulus is seen by the cones (when the person
is looking right at the stimulus). If the stimulus is picked up by
rods (around the edge of the eye), the reaction is slower.
Practice on a visual stimulus in central vision shortened the
reaction time to a stimulus in peripheral vision, and vice
versa. Therefore, look straight at the lights tree to
Practice and Errors. We also know that when
subjects are new to a reaction time task, their reaction times are
less consistent than when they've had an adequate amount of
practice. Also, if a subject makes an error (like pressing the
spacebar before the stimulus is presented), subsequent reaction
times are slower, as if the subject is being more cautious.
Lab experiments found that reaction time to a visual stimulus
decreased with three weeks of practice and that training older
people to resist falls by stepping out to stabilize themselves did
improve their reaction time.
Fatigue. We found that reaction time gets
slower when the subject is fatigued and observed that this
deterioration due to fatigue is more marked when the reaction time
task is complicated than when it is simple. Mental fatigue,
especially sleepiness, has the greatest effect. Its obvious,
get a good night sleep and have a good hearty meal would help a
Distraction. Many early research reviewed
studies showing that distractions increase reaction time and
found that college students given a simulated driving task had
longer reaction times when given a simultaneous auditory task.
They drew conclusions about the safety effects of driving while
using a cellular phone or voice-based e-mail. Subjects strapped to
a platform that periodically changed orientation had slowed
reaction time before and during platform movement. The reaction
time to auditory stimuli was more affected than response to visual
stimuli. Basically, you need to be focus on the run.
Warnings of Impending Stimuli. Reaction
times are faster when the subject has been warned that a stimulus
will arrive soon. In the Reaction Time program, the delay
is never more than about 3 sec, but these authors report that even
giving 5 minutes of warning helps. Warning was longer than about
0.2 sec., the shorter the warning was, the faster reaction time
was. This effect probably occurs because attention and muscular
tension cannot be maintained at a high level for more than a few
seconds. That is why there are few sets of yellow lights to
warn you about the green light. I normally leave at the
Warnings about Impairment by Alcohol. Ah,
the A word. Subjects who had drunk an impairing dose of
alcohol reacted faster when they were warned that this was enough
alcohol to slow their reaction time. Unwarned subjects who drank
suffered more decreased reaction times. However, the warned
subjects were also less inhibited and careful in their responses.
Even subjects who drank some nonalcoholic beverage and then were
warned (falsely) about impairment by alcohol reacted faster than
unwarned subjects who drank the same beverage. Don't drink
before the drag race. Its clearly state that this will
affect your reaction time.
Breathing Cycle. Reaction time was
faster when the stimulus occurred during expiration than during
Personality Type. Extroverted personality
types had faster reaction times, and anxious personality types had
faster reaction times.
Exercise. Exercise can affect reaction
time. Physically fit subjects had faster reaction times, and
subjects had the fastest reaction times when they were exercising
sufficiently to produce a heart rate of 115 beats per minute.
Stimulant Drugs. Administering an
amphetamine-like drug to a group of elderly men did not make their
reaction times faster, although it did make their physical
responses more vigorous.
The above factors that affect reaction time, However, I
still if we can build an device that will convert the second
yellow light into a sound, then our reaction time will be much
shorter. The delay reaction from visual stimulation is due
to physiologic and therefore sound trigger would be much better.
Would that considered cheating? If we can convert the light
to sound, we can cut at least 5 msec. Now you know the
techniques to improve your reaction time, you also need to
practice your movement time. Since drag race involved in a
complex movements. The more you practice both of the
components the lower your Elapse Time (ET) will be. However,
the factors that influence RT plays a major role. Remember,
you ear will work better than your eyes.
Thanks, Article partially adapted from Robert J.