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Free Auditory Reaction Time is Faster than Visual Reaction Time Essay Sample

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According to W., reaction time is one of the most ancient areas of research in disciplines like psychology. He defines it as a study concerned with the information dispensation time of the brain based on detectable proceedings of vision, audition and touch. In the past two centuries, studies have focused on the durations for stimulus perception and their resultant actions such as motion. Researchers like Ladd and Woodworth established stimulus reaction periods for visual, touch and audition.

According to W., these earlier researchers established that reaction to auditory stimulus was the fastest at 146ms followed by touch at 150ms while visual stimulus lagged behind at 189.5ms. W. denotes that, numerous studies over the past decades, using modern technologies, have confirmed these facts. Reportedly, vision is the slowest of the entire sensory set up followed by auditory while kinesthetic is the fastest at 180ms, 140ms and 120 ms respectively. This write up revisits these studies, narrowing down to auditory and visual reactions and assesses some physiological conditions considered in establishing the fact.

W. defines reaction time as the duration taken to evoke a movement while the actual time taken to initiate the motion is called movement time. These two concepts are vital in addressing the disparities evidenced in different works describing auditory and visual reaction times. W. recognizes that, in the estimation of reaction time, a given instance of measureable time used in cognitively preparing the movement. However, most studies argue that the tasks performed in establishing reaction time are clear tasks with minimal movement time which are considerably constant across the participants. Given this assumption, it is significant to recognize some of these earlier propositions in the estimation of reaction time.

W.  recognizes Donders as one the pioneers of reaction time as a psychological theory useful in measuring rational responses to stimulus. W. denotes that F, C Donders recorded participants’ reaction times to natural stimulus, like passing a key as soon as a red dot appears. He equally delved in choice reaction times to effortless stimulus like pressing a key as soon as a red dot appeared but not when a blue one appeared. Reportedly, Donders estimated the time taken to make undemanding decisions by subtracting simple reaction time from choice reaction time. These procedures established by Donders forged the bench mark used to guesstimate and deduce mental processes.

According to W., another researcher called Wundt had strong beliefs in reaction time as a procedure for investigating the rudimentary content and tricks of the mind. Reportedly, he made enormous strides in expanding the humble propositions by Donders. According to him, Wundt massively experimented with Donders methods. Notable is the method of presenting different stimuli to participants but instructing them to answer only to one. Evidently, this required the participants to respond only to one stimulus by discriminating between the lists presented.

To estimate the times taken to perform these mental acts, natural reaction time is subtracted from the discriminative reaction time. Wundt expanded on these procedures by independently introducing several stimuli and instructions to his participants. These reactions designated circumstantial reaction time. Time for choosing between the complex stimuli determined by subtracting both natural and discrimination times from choice reaction time.

 However, realizing the futility of his actions, he discarded the experiments citing several defects in Donders measures. Apparently, reaction times procedures varied too much from study to study and from object to object and at instances for the same object at dissimilar epoch. Additionally, the reaction time was dependent on the sense modality stimulated, the concentration of the incentive, and the number of substance to discriminate and the scale of disparity exhibited by the items. In W., apparently, Wundt found these variables too complex to factor into the Donders procedures. Reportedly, Wundt rejection of these procedures led to their unilateral abandonment until the center of the preceding century, at the inception of cognitive psychology, when they again established recognition.

Despite the incomprehensible complexity brought about by the numerous considerations in his experiments, Donders’ work explicitly deduced the concept of human thinking in terms of time. W. denotes that, insightful propositions seriously contributed to the broader understanding of the human response to stimulus. His prove of auditory superiority in time response over visual solved a scientific concept that had disturbed numerous extremely knowledgeable scholars. Additionally, his findings prompted massive research aimed at establishing usefulness of his discovery in solving numerous psychological problems. This is evident in Wundt work, which investigated these, procedures and believed in their ability to provide an insight into the behavior of the illusive human mind.

W., Denotes that the complexity noted by Wundt in proving Donders assertion was due to the treatment of the key procedures and the chronological way of admitting the numerous stimuli. Reportedly, the treatment of response time is in consideration with the suspected range of time response. W. denotes that, cases of numerous stimuli with dissimilar stimulus intensity are still a complex matter in the study of response time. However, discrimination of all stimuli should not disregard their intensity citing its importance in molding a result. According to W., Stimuli application must follow their order of intensity in relation to the chosen procedure.  Similarly, other factors that affect the participant are considered. These include age, gender, point in time, the speckled personalities, tedium, and mental illness or injury. These factors directly determine the outcome. If not keenly considered, they may adversely affect the outcome,. Several scholars are attributable to proving the assertion by Donders that auditory time response to stimuli is faster than a reaction to light. W. accounts that of all scholars of psychology, Wundt exhaustively dealt with Donders chronometric ideas. Wundt reportedly investigated all theories regarding time response and deduced unifying procedures that were in tandem with Donders. He establishes such facts as the inability of the human brain to attend to more than one event concurrently and that the human mind took approximately 100 ms to shift from one concrete matter to the next. He also tried to prove the assertion that time responses to different stimuli was a voluntary process.

Apart fro Wundt, Other psychology scholars like Helmholtz widely used Donders’s assertions. According to W., Helmholtz used Donders ideas of response time sequence to investigate his experiments on deducing the speed of nerve impulses. His main concern was to establish the possibility of nerve impulses travelling at the speed of light. He performed numerous experiments with frogs in 1850, confronting the idea of subtraction technique to establish the speed of impulses.

The subtraction technique is concerned with the decomposition of reaction time in order to establish the time of intermediate steps. W. denotes that the subtraction procedure involves dividing the whole event into parts then measuring the duration of the intermediate steps based on the entire response time. Evidently, through the subtraction of time duration of other measurable segments from the overall time response, one deduces the duration of intermediate steps. According to W., Helmholtz’s experiments singled out the fact that nerve impulses were extremely slow. These findings seriously revolutionized the studies of perception and thought.

W. reports that in order to employ reaction time to estimate the extent of psychological processes, consideration of some basic assumptions is necessary. From the definition of reaction time,W. noted the need for a distinct onset and a similarly a distinct end. The first assumption is that the extent for the conclusion of a response is dependant on the duration of the target psychological process. Second, the disparities in reaction durations are subject to the activation and completion times of the precedent reaction. It is equally vital to notice the marked characteristics of time response. This is because its sensitivity to time changes, its sensitivity to suspense and stratagem and finally, its tilted nature of a distribution. Helmholtz’s analysis of this factor led to his rejection of the premise of vital force.

Another remarkable advance in the relationship between response time and brain functions was by Mook. In his book, Mook reports the relationship between mind timings and the integration between the two hemispheres of the brain. Reportedly, the triumphant integration between the two hemispheres is unattainable in the absence of efficient brain timing. This is evident in the fact that, for competent dispensation of information, the processing part of the body operates at higher processing rates. Body balances is dependent on the brain’s processing and analyses the imbalance and issuance of an appropriate response to subdue the imbalance. This is in agreement with an observation by Reiene.

According to W. Smooth coordinated, physical motions are a consequence of defined synchronization between the brain sections. Similarly, unbending and clumsy engagements are a consequence of poor brain dispensation ability. This evidently points at the significance of precise response time in response time to different stimuli. There brain distinguishes sound and light stimuli discriminately. Irrespective of an uncoordinated or a coordinated response, the disparity in the mind’s perception of the two stimuli will evoke dissimilar time response.

W. notes other attempts to explain the response time sequence. The work by the two Australians; Sparrow and Elizabeth established the aging effects on response time. The study entails the exposure of two sets of participants to the stimulus effects of sound, light and video. Under these stimuli, the researchers aimed to establish the effect of age on physical activity of walking. The results showed longer response time to a visual stimulus as compared to auditory stimulus in young adults and the older participants. However, the response time for visual and video were significantly longer in the aged group as compared to the younger participants.

According to W., the researchers concluded that the age significantly deteriorates brain functions. The imbalance asserted byW. is evident in these results. From the findings, the coordination of the dissimilar mind section significantly deteriorates with age. This, in turn, affects the response time which is evident in the longer observed response times reported in the book. Additionally, W., points at the researchers’ report that such slowed mind functions attributable in the inability to judge between multiple functions with age.

W. similarly reports the research of response time in children. Reportedly, researchers have done several experiments regarding young children and time response. The reported experiments have covered both healthy and unhealthy children. According to Hergenhahn (2008), the time response in toddlers is in line with the findings made by Donders. However, owing to their brains, which are still developing, they exhibit little dissimilarity in cases of acute mental disorders.

W. reports that sound can significantly affect the response time of a participant. Other researchers have equally carried out experiments to establish the effect of background sounds in schools and hospitals. Evidently, background sound closely associates with variations in human concentration. It has a bearing on the performance of individuals. According to W., background sound implies both physically audible sound and an intrinsic sound unique to everyone. Man has power over sounds in ones surrounding. W. observes that the effect of physical noise is dependent on the individual’s body to synchronize with the source.

Evidently, the performance of an individual is dependent on how the mind perceives the inherent sound. Smooth interaction results in an enhanced physical activity. External noise can equally act to derail physiological and psychological processes.

On the other hand, intrinsic sounds are sounds unique to individual hosts.W. observes that, it is the inherent dynamics of the brain, body and the inner working of a living being. Noise is provoked by factors ensuing to internal or external discomforts. Reportedly, optimal mind coordination has the aptitude to limit its effects on response time. However, in cases of high stimulus, its manifestation destabilizes the poise state of mind and distorts individual perception of things. According toW., the effects hinder the mind’s ability to conduct optimal response to time. Additionally, it does not distort Donders’s observations. Although the lengths of both time responses are enhanced, the auditory response is still shorter than visionary response.

W. denotes that, the effects are visible through intentional and unintentional physical behavior. Normally, self control, which manifests, as a spontaneous change and adherence to certain code of conduct is enhanced or distorted. This is dependent on the mind and body’s ability and manner of assimilating the noise.


The findings of the straightforward reaction time condition are in concert with the previous research in the discipline. It is evident that the use of rudimentary means of presenting stimuli to participants reduces the lengths of both auditory and visual modalities,W.. However, several studies have fronted the electronic experiments to correct this response time errors,.

In the four story decision making chart by W., it is evident that the effects of facilitation occur even when the auditory stimulus tailored to provide only redundant information. It makes it clear that tailoring of the stimulus do not contribute extensively to the lengths of the response time. Increasing the ambiguity of the stimulus lengthens the response time but do not alter the Donders’s initial observations. Similarly, physical and mental distress affects the length of time response. On the other hand any form of fatigue lowers mind functions thereby reducing the time response.

The studies on time response are continuing. Several researchers and scholars are continuously coming up with different modalities of explaining the disparities observed in researches. Some researchers have refuted Donders assertions, citing differences in the physiological processes in auditory and visual stimuli, while some beliefs they represent facts concerning the two sensory processes. These are areas that will therefore require more studies.


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  2. Evans, K. K. & Treisman, A. (2010). “Natural cross-modal mappings between visual and auditory features”. Journal of Vision, 10 (1): 1.
  3. Gilley, P. M., Sharma, A., Mitchell, T. V & Dorman, F. M. (2010). “The influence of a sensitive period for auditory-visual integration in children with cochlear implants”. Restoring Neurology and Neuroscience, 28, (2): 207-218.
  4. Kosinski, J. R. (2008). “A literature Review on Reaction Time”. Clemson University. Retrieved October 29, 2011 from:
  5. Lakatos, P., Karmos, G., Mehta, A. D., Ulbert, I & Schoeder, E. C. (2008). “Entrainment of Neuronal Oscillations as a Mechanism of Attention Selection”. Science Journal, 320 (5872): 110-113.
  6. McIntyre, D., Ring, C., Edwards, L & Carroll, D. (2008). “Simple reaction time: a function of the phase of the cardiac cycle in young adults at risk for hypertension”. Psychophysiology, 45 (2): 333–336.
  7. McMorris, T. (2004). Acquisition and Performance of Sports skills. England: J. Wiley and Sons.
  8. Mohebbi, R., Gray, R & Tan, Z. H. (2009). “Driver Reaction Time to Tactile and Auditory Rear-End Collision Warnings While Talking on a Cell Phone”. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 51 (1): 102-110.
  9. Shelton, J. & Kumar, P. G. (2010). “Comparison between Auditory and Visual Simple Reaction Times”. Neuroscience & Medicine, 1 (1): 30-32.
  10. Zaidel, E & Locoboni, M. The parallel brain: the cognitive neuroscience of the corpus callosum. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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