How Fast Are We According to the Age? The Experiment

The topic of human reaction time in both experimental and real-life conditions has always been of interest to scholars. For example, Collardeau, Brisswalter, and Audiffren (2001) observed the direct connection between the reaction time improvement and exercise (p. 679), while Davranche, Audiffren, and Denjean (2006) proved this finding and explained it by the increased arousal observed while the activity demanding the improved reaction time is exercised (p. 325). At the same time, Der and Deary (2006) observed the connection between aging and reaction time increase, as according to these authors reaction time reduces up to 20 years, and then grows for the rest of the human life at an especially fast pace after 60 years (p. 67).

Further on, Hultsch, MacDonald, and Dixon (2002, p. 101) also observed age and reaction time connections, but according to these scholars reaction time does not obligatory increase with aging, it just becomes more variable in respect of both shortening and growing. Gutierrez, Gonzalez-Gross, Delgado, and Castillo (2001) observed that fasting and the absence of food and water impair reaction time and working capacity only after three days (p. 420). Finally, Robinson and Tamir (2005, p. 110) found the connection between the personality type and psychological stability and reaction time observed.

Reflex Background and Connection to the Experiment

Drawing from such a wide range of scholarly works on various aspects of reaction type and the factors that condition it, the relevance of the current experiment becomes obvious. However, to provide better credibility to the experiment it is necessary to define reflex and see how it is related to reactions time. Thus, according to Barthélémy and Boulinguez (2001), the reflex is the spontaneous reaction of an organism, not obligatory a human one, to an outside stimulus (p. 42). The reaction time concept is directly related to the idea of reflex as far as the reaction time, as Barthélémy and Boulinguez (2001, p. 43) and Bashore and Ridderinkhof (2002, p. 151) argue, is the time that passes between the stimulus effect on the organism and the action taken by this organism, i. e. the reflex.


Theoretical Support

The theoretical framework for the methodology used in the current experiment can be characterized as the combination of both quantitative and qualitative research methods with the domination of the former, i. e. quantitative method. Hultsch, MacDonald, and Dixon (2002, p. 101), the quantitative method of research is the best solution for the experiments dealing with the statistical and numeric data as it allows carrying out calculations of any complexity.

However, the analysis of the results of those calculations and relating them to the research hypotheses is the task for the qualitative research method that deals with underlying reasons for an event or a result and consequences of both (Davranche, Audiffren, and Denjean, 2006, p. 329). Therefore, to provide the best credibility and theoretical support to the experiment, a combination of the qualitative and quantitative methods was used.


The sampling technique for the current experiment was designed based on the easily available resources and the limited time frame. Therefore, all the experiment participants included the classmates of the researchers from the psych. 213 class at Queens College. In more detail, it was decided to sample 11 female participants of the age groups ranging from 19 to 68 years. The sampling technique displayed considerable drawbacks and lack of conformity with the research hypotheses, but the timeframe and the resources available for the experiment did not allow to develop a better sampling strategy and to pay more attention to selecting the participants. In any case, the current report analyzes the results retrieved with the help of the existing sample, while this and other experiment design drawbacks are discussed in the respective section below.

Data Collection and Analysis Procedures

The procedures involved in the data collection and analysis process are various and multidirectional. First, the sample of the experiment participants is selected according to the age group. Second, the experiment’s purpose and design are explicitly explained to all the participants for them to be aware of any simulations of the experimental activities that the researchers might be taking to keep the participants focused and attentive. Third, every experiment participant is invited to the laboratory to action and allow the result to be collected.

The experiment team consists of three members, one of which conducts the very experiment using the ruler to see the time a person needs to react to the ruler approaching her fingers; the second one is responsible for the timing of every part of the experiment, while the third team member is busy with writing down the data obtained. Finally, after all the experiment participants are tested, the results are gathered and synthesized into two graphs reflecting the age and reaction time relation and the age and distance relation.


Numeric Data

After the experiment is conducted and the results are collected and properly analyzed, the researchers can present the result in a comprehensible and clear manner. Thus, the two tests were carried out, with one to monitor the relationship between the age and reaction time, and the second to see the relation of age to the distance observed. The tests provide points of Significance. For the age–reaction time relations, the significance is observed between the age groups of 18 – 30 and 31 – 45 years at the levels that equal t(2) = 6.15, p < 0.05. The significance for the age–distance test was observed between the 31 – 45 and 46 – 70 years age groups and reached the level of t(2) =22.96, p<0.05.

Significance Observed

According to these results, the shortest reaction time to reflex was observed in the age group of participants of 18 to 30 years, while the longest reaction time was observed in the 31 – 45 years group, and the 46 – 70 group displayed the reaction time shorter than the 31 – 45 but longer than 18 – 30 age groups. The significance was thus observed between the 18 – 30 and 31 – 45 years age groups. In respect of distance – age relation, the shortest distance was observed in the 31 – 45 group, while the longest distance was displayed by the 46 – 70 group. The 18 – 30 group results were better than the 46 – 70 group’s results but worse than the figures by the 31 – 45 group. Therefore, the significance was observed in 31 – 45 and 46 – 70 groups (For details see Appendices section, Appendix I and II).


Results Evaluation

Accordingly, the above-presented results reveal the fact that the reaction time to reflex is shorter in young people and longer in older people, while the distance is not always shorter based on the same younger and older people’s opposition. Therefore, both the alt and the null hypotheses of the experiment are disproved as not all younger people have faster reflex rates and not all activities. Also, the experimental data do not support the idea that age has no role at all in the changes of the reaction time to reflex in human beings. At the same time, the experiment data support the data from previous research by Der and Deary (2006) and Hultsch, MacDonald, and Dixon (2002) that also argue about the direct effect of age on the changes in reaction time in human beings.

Experiment Drawbacks

Needless to say, the result obtained during the experiment cannot be considered correct as there certainly have been space for errors and research design drawbacks. First, the research hypotheses lack consistency with the sampling technique and size. It is difficult if at all possible, to consider the hypothesis about human beings, on the whole, using the female experiment participants only and ignoring the male ones. As well, the sample size of 11 females is rather small in scope. Finally, the technique of ruler usage is way too imperfect as its results are affected by the sweatiness of the fingers and hands of both the researcher and the participants, the attention of both, and the respective reaction time.

Possible Research Improvements

Accordingly, the research design and procedure might have been improved through refining the hypotheses – sample combination and making sure that no outside factors like sweatiness, ruler slips, and attention distractions influence the experiment course and results. In more detail, the hypothesis might be modified to include only reaction time in females, or the sample might be extended to include males and become compatible with the hypotheses. Outside factors mentioned might be monitored by involving another member of the research team and charging him/her with handling all the details of the experimental procedure.

Further Research Implication

The implications for further research might include the experiments carried out with all the above-mentioned drawbacks removed. As well, the relation of age and reaction time in humans might be researched in connection to the psychological and physical state of every group and the experimental conditions involved. Finally, the experiments with the larger and more inclusive scopes might be carried out to provide greater research support to the data collected during the discussed experiment.


To conclude, the experiment carried on the sample of 11 female participants aimed at identifying the influence of aging on the changes observed in reaction time rates to reflex in human beings. The research results disprove the research hypotheses but are consistent with the previous scholarly works according to which age affects the increase or decrease of the reaction time people need to display a reflex to any outside influence. However, the drawbacks of the discussed experiments still leave space for further research in the area.


Appendix I. Age and reaction time bar chart

Age and reaction time bar chart

Appendix I. Age and distance bar chart

Age and distance bar chart


Barthélémy, S. and Boulinguez, P. (2001). Manual reaction time asymmetries in human subjects: the role of movement planning and attention. Neuroscience Letters 315(1): 41 – 44.

Bashore, T. R. and Ridderinkhof, K. R. (2002). Older age, traumatic brain injury, and cognitive slowing: some convergent and divergent findings. Psychological Bulletin 128(1): 151.

Collardeau, M., Brisswalter, J., and Audiffren, M. (2001). Effects of a prolonged run on simple reaction time of well-trained runners. Perceptual and Motor Skills 93(3): 679.

Davranche, K., Audiffren, M., and Denjean, A. (2006). A distributional analysis of the effect of physical exercise on a choice reaction time task. Journal of Sports Sciences 24(3): 323 – 330.

Der, G. and Deary, I. J. (2006). Age and sex differences in reaction time in adulthood: Results from the United Kingdom health and lifestyle survey. Psychology and Aging 21(1): 62 – 73.

Gutierrez, A., Gonzalez-Gross, M., Delgado, M., and Castillo, M. J. (2001). Three days fast in sportsmen decrease physical work capacity but not strength or perception- reaction time. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 11(4): 420.

Hultsch, D. F., MacDonald, S. W., and Dixon, R. A. (2002). Variability in reaction time performance of younger and older adults. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B 57(2): 101.

Robinson, M. C. and Tamir, M. (2005). Neuroticism as mental noise: a relation between neuroticism and reaction time standard deviations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89(1): 107 – 115.

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