The effect of distance on reaction time in aiming movements

Abstract

Target distance affects movement duration in aiming tasks but its effect on reaction time (RT) is poorly documented. RT is a function of both preparation and initiation. Experiment 1 pre-cued movement (allowing advanced preparation) and found no influence of distance on RT. Thus, target distance does not affect initiation time. Experiment 2 removed pre-cue information and found that preparing a movement of increased distance lengthens RT. Experiment 3 explored movements to targets of cued size at non-cued distances and found size altered peak speed and movement duration but RT was influenced by distance alone. Thus, amplitude influences preparation time (for reasons other than altered duration) but not initiation time. We hypothesise that the RT distance effect might be due to the increased number of possible trajectories associated with further targets: a hypothesis that can be tested in future experiments.

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Acknowledgement

We are grateful to Jemma Whyte, Laura Wilson, Diane Bishop and Ariadne Oddy for their help with data collection. We are grateful to James Tresilian for his helpful comments with regard to the results. A grant to Mark Mon-Williams and Justin Williams from Action Medical Research and Scottish Enterprise helped support this research work.

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Correspondence to Mark Mon-Williams.

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Munro, H., Plumb, M.S., Wilson, A.D. et al. The effect of distance on reaction time in aiming movements. Exp Brain Res 183, 249–257 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-007-1040-y

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Keywords

  • Movement
  • Reaction time
  • Preparation
  • Fitts’ law
  • Aiming