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The Effect of Distraction on Reaction Time

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Hannah Seckendorf

on 7 May 2015

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Transcript of The Effect of Distraction on Reaction Time

Central Experimental Questions
Can we multi-task?

Can distractions impact our reaction time positively and negatively?

How do auditory and visual distractions compare in distraction magnitude?
The Effect of Distraction on Reaction Time
Distractors Investigated
- Vocal:
o Control: normal catch
o A. Subject says word while catching ruler
o B. Hold phone, maintain conversation while catching ruler
o C. Handless conversation while catching ruler
- Auditory:
o D. Control: Silence
o E. Music
o F. Public
- Preoccupation:
o Control: normal catch
o G. Give unsolvable/difficult problem before dropping ruler

Experimental Design
General Neural Pathway in Response to Visual Stimuli
1. Eye
Define: Reaction Time
Ruler Catch
Experimental subject asked to catch ruler without any warning stimulus
Auditory distraction:
auditory stimuli provided either
through background noise or music

Verbal Distraction:
competing verbal
stimuli provided either through required
response word or conversation

mental state focused on different situation
2. Brain
3. Spinal chord
4. Arm
Visual Stimulus received through photoreceptors (rods and cones)

Primary visual cortex receives stimulus in the occipital lobe (processed by movement sensitive V1 interblob cells: respond best to moving stimuli)
Signals sent to midbrain: center for auditory and visual motor reflexes.

The motor cortex sends signals to the motor neurons in the spinal chord→

Motor neurons in the arm respond to signal with movement

Reaction time is the time discrepancy between the moment of stimulus delivery and the beginning of your response.

Knowing how the neural pathways work...

I hypothesized that distracting stimuli
would impact reaction time negatively!
Results So Far....
Auditory Distraction:
- 50% participants slower with both conversational and musical background noise
- The other 50% was either faster or unaffected
Verbal Distractions:
1. Response Word: 60% participants' reaction time quickened with word
2. Conversation: 50% participants reaction time was slower in conversation without hand-held device than with
Sources Used
1. Drogoi, V., PhD. (n.d.). Chapter 15: Visual Processing: Cortical Pathways. Retrieved from http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/s2/chapter15.html

2. Y, A. W., Ng, & Chan, A. H.S. (2012, March). Finger Response Times to Visual, Auditory and Tactile Modality Stimuli [PDF]. Retrieved from

3. Kosinski, R. J. (2013, September). A Literature Review on Reaction Time.
Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://biae.clemson.edu/bpc/bp/lab/110/

4. Experiment: How Fast Your Brain Reacts To Stimuli. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from Backyard Brains website: https://backyardbrains.com/experiments/reactiontime

5. REFLEXES [Fact sheet]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from

Plans for future
- Get more results to see if a more distinct trend arises

- Research impact of habituation, priming and muscle memory
Reaction Time Facts
On average, humans have a reaction time of 0.25 seconds to a visual stimulus and 0.17 for an audio stimulus

Because reaction times require a higher degree of neural processing naturally vary per individual - Influenced by:
- practice
- athleticism
- sleepiness/fatigue
- emotional distress
Reflex vs. Reaction
It is important not to confuse reaction time with reflexes!
response to a perturbing stimulus that acts to return the body to homeostasis
responses to a stimulus from the environment
Full transcript