Tristan Dear, Kathryn Helmerick, Kana Costello-Ladoux

October 31, 2007

EBIO 1230, Thursday 2:00 PM



Reaction Rate: Distracted vs. Undistracted


            We designed an experiment that tested reaction time in which subjects took a reaction test in silence, and then repeated the test while answering mundane questions. Because multitasking distracts people from their original task, we hypothesized that comprehended distractions, such as answering questions, would decrease a person’s reaction rate.

            To test this hypothesis, we began by selecting ten random subjects and allowed each subject to focus solely on the reaction timer for one minute. We recorded the amount of time it took from the moment the light (or sound) was activated to the time the subject pushed the correct corresponding button.  We then retested the subject with an added verbal distraction for the same period of time. The subject was expected to push the reaction timer as they were asked simple questions such as “What is your favorite color?” The reaction time was recorded here as well.

            A T-test determined that the relationship between the two variables was insignificant. The mean of the reaction time without distraction was 0.5324 seconds while the mean of the reaction time with distraction was 0.5737 seconds. The P value was 0.1659, proving our variables insignificant and not supporting our hypothesis.

            Although our hypothesis was not supported, we believe that our results are because of experimental error. The way we recorded the reaction times was crude. The reaction timer was manual, as was the way we recorded the times. Also, our subject’s reaction time probably decreased during the second round as they grew comfortable with the timer. Adding warm-up rounds would correct this. Also, the subject knew we were testing reaction time and thus concentrated on the timer more than the questions. We did not account for the number of questions answered nor for the subject’s sex. Others simply did not take the test seriously: talking during the silent portion of the reaction test.

 Although our experiment did not support our hypothesis, we believe that it may have some validity because of other scientist’s conclusions. We found an experiment by Trimmel and Poelzl (2006) in which they discovered that “background noise lengthened reaction time by inhibiting the cerebral coretex” (Kosinski). Their experiment was more complex, used more accurate materials, and they spent more time collecting data. Richard (2002) and Lee (2001) also support our hypothesis by finding that students “given a simulated driving task had longer reaction times when given a simultaneous auditory task” (Kosinski). These results have a greater significance than our experiment because of how the experiments were conducted.

            We believe that our hypothesis is on the right track. There is a reason that state laws are being implemented regarding the use of cell phones while driving. The human brain only handles so much information at once. Car companies attempt to decrease distraction by installing in-car navigations, but these have downfalls as well; noises are a major source of distraction. So although our data showed no significance between reaction time and distractions, we would like to perform further testing before declaring our hypothesis disproved.





Kosinski, Robert J. “A Literature Review on Reaction Time.”             Sept. 2006. <>