Reaction Time in Elderly Subjects: The Effects of Practice on 'Iwo Different Reaction Time Tasks

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Birk, Dawn Marie
Hosted by Utah State University Libraries
reaction time; practice; elderly; stimulus presentation; Psychology
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thesis / dissertation description
The reaction time of four groups of elderly human subjects were examined to determine the effects of stimulus presentation and task practice. Each group practiced different tasks, each requiring a response when more than one alternative was available. Two tasks involved making responses based on either visually or auditorily presented stimuli only. One task required decisions to be made on the basis of both auditory and visual stimuli. The fourth group acted as a comparison group and did not practice a reaction-time task; although they did perform a task on the computer and their reaction times were measured. Before and after practicing these tasks, each group was given a single trial involving a completely different decision-making task, and reaction time was measured. Results show that practice led to decreased reaction times on the practiced task in all treatment groups. The comparison group did not improve. Practicing any of the three reaction time tasks also led to decreased reaction time on the unpracticed task. These findings indicate that elderly individuals can decrease their reaction time with practice and that after practicing one task, changes will generalize to a different task. If the older population can alter performance on this task, then they nay also be capable of altering performance on other tasks.