Elementary Experiments in Psychology

By Carl E. Seashore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
REACTION-TIME

For the Whole Class.*

"QUICK as thought" is often taken to mean infinitely short time, or no time at all. Yet thinking is a distressingly slow process with some of us. A century and a half ago a distinguished physiologist estimated that the speed of the nerve-impulse was about 57,600,000,000 feet per second; a century later it was measured and found to be, in round numbers, 100 feet per second. It was for some time thought to have a speed comparable with the speed of the electric current, but the electric current would flash half the distance around the globe at the equator while a nerve-impulse passes from foot to head in man. The conceptions of the time of mental

____________________
*
If the class is large, it may be divided into sections of about twelve to fifteen. Select a conductor, a timer, and a recorder for each section a week in advance, and let them train themselves so that they are prepared to conduct the experiment efficiently and economically. The conductor shall have general command; the timer shall take the time with a stop-watch; the recorder shall take full notes. The conductor and the recorder cannot be in the chain. If no stop-watch is available, the timer must also be out of the chain so that he can time by counting the ticks of a watch, usually fifths of a second. He can then count by groups of ten-fifths, but may adapt the method of counting to the length of the chain.

The experiment may be performed in one hour if proper preparations have been made and the reading of the explanatory parts is postponed until the experiments have been completed.

-205-

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