Reaction Time

What is Reaction Time?
It is the measure of how quickly we respond to a stimulus This consists of the the time for our sensory system to convert the stimulus to a message that is sent to our brain, plus the time for the brain to send the appropriate signal to our muscles so that our muscles can respond.

Think about the example of a sprinter hearing the starting gun at the beginning of a race. What is the stimulus? The sensor? The response? The stimulus is the sound of the gun shot, which we sense with our ears and our auditory system. When the sprinter’s brain receives the message that the starting gun has been fired, they respond by striding forward off the starting block. The forward stride is the response.

We can also say that this is the speed at which we are able to process information and make decisions. Why is this important?

It often determines our success, for example in:

  • Sports
  • Safety (for example, driving)
  • Test taking

When you have advance notice that you are going to need to respond, your reaction time is faster. In other words, when you are alert, you have a faster reaction time. In this set of activities, we can learn more about our own reaction time, and we can learn about some techniques that we can use to improve it.