How Can You Best Measure Reaction Times?

Eli Brenner*, Jeroen B.J. Smeets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Comparing many ways of measuring and analyzing reaction times reveals that the chosen method influences both the judged reaction time and, more importantly, conclusions about how the reaction time depends on the circumstances under study. The task was to lift one's finger in response to a tone. The response amplitude was either constrained or not. Constraining the amplitude made the response less vigorous. When the response was less vigorous it took longer to move far enough to release a switch or exceed the elasticity of the finger pulp. Although using a micro-switch would have made the reaction time appear to be longer for the constrained movement, reaction times determined in the most reliable ways were not systematically longer for the constrained movement. The most reliable method is to use extrapolation of the change in the average force that the finger exerts on the surface to estimate the reaction time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-495
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Motor Behavior
Issue number5
Early online date25 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • latency
  • movement amplitude
  • Reaction time


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