Reaction Time and Gender

CU Boulder , Fall 2008

We tested the reaction times of males and females using a mathematics test and a color test. Reaction time is the elapsed time between the presentation of a sensory stimulus and the subsequent behavioral response. We chose this experiment to see if the males larger brain size or if females ability to multi-task affected their reaction times. We hypothesized that the reaction between males and females will be the same because brains respond the same way. The first test was naming the color of a word and the second was evaluating math problems. A slideshow was utilized; subjects were timed for how long it took them to report the correct answer.

If the male and female brains respond the same way then the reaction times will be the same. The null hypothesis was supported and rejected. One p-value was significant while the other wasnÕt. The p-value for the colors was 0.82, and for the math problems it was 2.8e-4. The mean for the color experiment female was 0.92 and the male was 0.90. For the math test, the mean was 11.36 for females and 6.25 for males.

The results both supported and refuted the prediction. The reaction times for the color experiment were very similar; the prediction for the math experiment was off because males were much faster than the females. From our results we propose an alternative hypothesis. Males have faster reaction times than females. This could be due to the larger size of the male brain. This would result in faster reaction times for males, which would be consistent with our data. Only one test would be used.

Some problems with this experiment could be the environment; it was distracting possibly skewing reaction times. More subjects should be used in order in increase the accuracy of the results. Also, other students could hear the question before hand, making their reaction times faster. These corrections would improve the accuracy and validity of the results.

We compared two other studies to our experiment. Though both used different tests, their dependent variable was reaction time, and males and females were being compared. The first study used light and sound to test reaction times, and found that men had a faster mean reaction time than females. The mean reaction time was .4491 seconds for males and .7418 seconds for females (Goulian, et al. 2005). The results showed that the reaction times between men and women were significantly different for both tests (both had p-values of less than .05). With our data, it was found that male reaction time means were lower than females'. The second study compared the reaction times between the genders by using a test where subjects catch a ruler between their thumb and forefinger. The data showed that the average reaction time for male students was .1778 seconds, while it was .1950 seconds for female students (Elert, et al. 2006). These studies both had sources of error, just as ours did, so the data may not be completely accurate.

Literature cited

1) Goulian, M., Coloccia, D., Fehring, C., Geller, S. 2005. Sensory Reaction Rates Differing between men and women.

2) Elert, G., Deng, S., Javed, S., Tan, J., Weng, N. 2006. Fingertip Reaction Time. The physics Factbook-Student choice.