Gender and Sensory Reaction Time

Kathleen Ferrick, Katelyn Hart, and Keenan Fitzpatrick

In our experiment we sought to determine the effect of gender upon simple reaction times. It is commonly assumed within U.S. culture that males are innately more active and responsive to stimuli than are females.  Conversely, females are perceived as relatively passive. Based on this theory, we hypothesized that through measuring the simple reaction times of men and women to both auditory and visual stimuli, the results would show that men had faster simple reaction times. 

In order to test our hypothesis we used a reaction timer. Simple reaction time experiments are composed of a single stimulus that allow for only one type of response. The timer had two parts, one of which was operated by the experimenter and the other that was used by the participant.  There were four different colored lights (white, red, green, or blue) that could be selected and a single buzzer sound.  We made sure the intensity of both the light and the sound was the same for all trials of the experiment as a control. The experimenter was able to choose which stimulus would light up or sound by pressing the appropriate button on the control module.  In response to a light stimulus, the participant would press the button below the appropriate color. In response to the sound stimulus, the participant would press the button designated for the buzzer.  Each response time for every trial was recorded and the timer was reset for the following trial.  For each of our four participants (two male and two female) we ran eight trials.  Four sound stimuli and four visual stimuli were administered to each participant in random order.  The independent variable was the participantŐs gender and the dependent variable was his or her reaction time. 

            Our results did not support our hypothesis. The P values for both the auditory and sound tests were above .05. The mean for males for the sound tests (.541) was not significantly different from the females (.796). The mean for males for the light tests (.591) compared to that for females (.564) was not significantly different either. The t-test for auditory reaction times (t= 1.55, P> .05) and the t test for visual reaction times (t= .412, P>.05) failed to support our hypothesis.

Through collecting data from more participants we could have a sample that is more representative of the population.  Also, having a more structured environment for our experiment could decrease distractions for both the experimenter and participants.  The results of the experiment by Goulian in 2005 differ from those that we generated.  Both experiments had the same sample size yet rendered opposing results.  It appears that having such small sample sizes make it unlikely to generalize findings to the population because it is equally likely to come up with one result, as it is another that contradicts it.  It would be interesting to find out if consumption of caffeine would result in statistically different results for males and females.  If males and females are the same in regards to hyperactivity, could caffeine consumption cause a difference?