Christophe Pochari, Pochari Technologies, Bodega Bay, CA
Abstract: The paradox of slowing reaction time has not been fully resolved. Since Galton collected 17,000 samples of simple auditory and visual reaction time from 1887 to 1893, achieving an average of a 185 milliseconds, modern researchers have been unable to achieve such fast results, leading some intelligence researchers to erroneously argue that slowing has been mediated by selective mechanisms favoring lower g in modern populations.
Introduction: In this study, we have developed a high fidelity measurement system for ascertaining human reaction time with the principle aim of eliminating the preponderance of measurement latency. In order to accomplish this, we designed a high-speed photographic apparatus where a camera records the stimuli along with the participant’s finger movement. The camera is an industrial machine vision camera designed to stringent commercial standards (Contrastec Mars 640-815UM $310 Alibaba.com), the camera feeds into a USB 3.0 connection to a windows 10 PC using Halcon machine vision software, the camera records at a high frame rate of 815 frames per second, or 1.2 milliseconds per frame, the camera uses a commercial-grade Python 300 sensor. The high-speed camera begins recording, then the stimuli source is activated, the camera continues filming after the participant has depressed a mechanical lever. The footage is then analyzed using a framerate analyzer software such as Virtualdub 1.10, by carefully analyzing each frame, the point of stimuli appearance is set as point zero, where the elapsed time of reaction commences. When the LED monitor begins refreshing the screen to display the stimuli color, which is green in this case, the framerate analyzer tool is used to identity the point where the screen has refreshed at approximately 50 to 70% through, this point is set as the beginning of the measurement as we estimate the human eye can detect the presence of the green stimuli prior to being fully displayed. Once the frame analyzer ascertains the point of stimuli arrival, the next process is enumerating the point where finger displacement is conspicuously discernable, that is when the liver begins to show evidence of motion from its point in stasis prior to displacement.
Using this innovative technique, we achieved a true reaction time to visual stimuli of 152 milliseconds, 33 milliseconds faster than Francis Galton’s pendulum chronograph. We collected a total of 300 samples to arrive at a long-term average. Using the same test participant, we compared a standard PC measurement system using Inquisit 6, we achieved results of 240 and 230 milliseconds depending on whether a laptop keyboard or desktop keyboard is used. This difference of 10 ms is likely due to the longer key stroke distance on the desktop keyboard. We also used the famous online test humanbenchmark.com and achieved an average of 235 ms. Using the two tests, an internet and local software version, the total latency appears to be up to 83 ms, nearly 40% of the gross figure. These findings strongly suggest that modern methods of testing human reaction time impose a large latency penalty which skews results upwards, hence the fact it appears reaction times are slowing. We conclude that rather than physiological changes, slowing simple RT is imputable to poor measurement fidelity intrinsic to computer/digital measurement techniques.
In compendium, it cannot be stated with any degree of confidence that modern Western populations have experienced slowing reaction time since Galton’s original experiments. This means attempts to extrapolate losses in general cognitive ability from putative slowing reaction times is seriously flawed and based on confounding variables. The reaction time paradox is not a paradox but rather based on conflating latency with slowing, a rather elementary problem that continued to perplex experts in the field of mental chronometry. We urge mental chronometry researchers to abandon measurement procedures fraught with latency such as PC-based systems and use high-speed machine vision cameras as a superior substitute.